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We live in an increasingly globalised society. Many of the products we enjoy in everyday life have been sourced and produced in locations from all over the world. All companies depend on economically strong and stable communities to trade successfully. This is just as true for the communities we buy from as the communities we sell to. Retailers are increasingly scrutinised on the strength of their relationships with suppliers and their local communities as well as efforts to continually improve working conditions and promote fair trading practices.

As one of the most trusted brands on the high street, we believe our role is to reassure our customers and key stakeholders that we are a fair partner. Being a fair partner covers the prices we pay to suppliers and producers of raw materials as well as the support we provide to communities where we trade. It also includes our responsibilities to ensure good working conditions throughout our supply chains and to source our products with integrity. 

Commitments and targets
We’re only as strong as the communities in which we trade. We’re committed to paying a fair price to suppliers, supporting local communities and making sure everyone working in our supply chains enjoys good working conditions. 

Approach
We are a food specialist, not a supermarket. Our products are made exclusively for M&S and this unique position means they are not comparable with the rest of the market. However, we don’t own any farms or factories or make the products that are sold in our stores. Our reputation for quality, innovation and sustainability is built on excellent long term relationships with our suppliers. 

Our food supply chain is very complex. We directly contract with suppliers who produce our products at around 500 factories located in 55 countries – 80% of which are in the UK. Raw materials and commodities are sourced from more than 70 countries. We estimate that our suppliers source raw materials from around 30,000 farms. At the same time, the nature of our portfolio means that production volumes are not always constant, especially within agriculture, where large variations – both predictable and unpredictable – are driven by seasonality and variations in customer demand. 


We've published an interactive map which shows where our M&S food and household products are made and discloses information on our key raw materials. The map highlights production countries as well as individual factory locations and profiles for sites used by our direct suppliers. Visit the interactive map here.

We will not compromise on quality and maintain a competitive stance on price. We only source from suppliers who meet our standards or who have given a commitment to achieve our standards within an agreed timescale. 

Against this backdrop, our priority is to develop a supply base which is fit for the future, aligned, utilised and efficient, which drives innovative products, profitability and allows everyone to reinvest. We have embarked on a number of projects to restructure our supply base aimed at improving our efficiency and our margins without compromising product quality. We’ve also reinvested this money in price and quality, and shared it with suppliers to help them create further efficiencies. 

We comply with the UK Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), dealing with our suppliers fairly and lawfully.

As a business we are committed to respecting human rights and we support the goals of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act and have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. Find out more about our approach to respecting human rights.

Our Technical Terms of Trade set out our minimum technical requirements for suppliers in order to meet our commitment to customers to deliver products that are safe, legal and high quality and which have been produced with integrity. 

Our Technical Terms of Trade are supported by specific policies (e.g. Packaging, Pesticides, Non-GM, Nanotechnology, and so on), Codes of Practice (which set out our requirements in detail for a particular topic) and Guidelines (which are advisory in nature). Our suppliers can access these through Connect – our online Quality Management System – and should be read alongside our Terms of Trade. Our technical requirements are expected to be fully understood at a senior management level and communicated to all staff involved in producing our products.  

We also routinely carry out audits of suppliers to ensure that our expectations on food safety and integrity are being met. All suppliers must agree to be audited on a specified frequency by M&S or its approved third parties against brand values, policy statements, Codes of Practice and Guidelines, and commit to taking action as a result of any findings. 

Our approach to supplier management focuses on:

Ensuring that our suppliers have effective management systems in place
Effective and comprehensive management systems
Our suppliers must have established and comprehensive management systems in place. This is key to ensuring that they are capable of complying with all legal and relevant M&S obligations.

All production sites must also meet the requirements of PAS 96:2014 ‘Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack’. For example, implementing and maintaining a Threat Assessment Critical Control Point (TACCP) approach to managing brand integrity for all product ingredients.

Our Global Sourcing Principles set out the standards that we expect our suppliers to comply with and the processes and systems we expect them to implement in order to promote respect for human rights, sustainability and decent working conditions. It is our suppliers’ responsibility to achieve and maintain these standards and to enforce them within their own supply chain. Find out more about our approach to responsible sourcing. 

Suppliers must objectively measure and track a strict set of agreed KPIs (e.g. customer complaints, testing results, etc) on a monthly or quarterly basis (as agreed) and be proactive in identifying any trends and taking preventive action. 

Suppliers must have in place Business Continuity plans, an effectively trained Incident Management Team and Incident Management Procedures. We expect suppliers to highlight any issues concerning food safety, quality or integrity to us as soon as possible.

Staff competencies and awareness
We expect suppliers to take a progressive attitude to employee training and ensure that staff are competent to perform their duties. This also applies where temporary staff are used.

For example, we would expect that basic training should cover Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach and legal responsibilities. 

Suppliers are also required to attend our bespoke hygiene courses and Food Technical Supplier Briefings. 

We communicate with suppliers through a supplier portal and all of our documents including policies and best practise guidance are held on our connect supplier portal.


Responsible employment practices

We have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. We take any incidents very seriously and would work with the relevant authorities and experts to ensure that individuals are protected.

We expect our suppliers to engage our workers in line with legal requirements. They are required to check that all workers have a right to work in a particular country and that they are of legal working age. This applies even if workers are supplied through labour providers, agents or gangmasters. For example, in the UK suppliers are also expected to ensure that labour providers have a valid license from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

We understand that flexible working arrangements are essential in the food industry. They can also be beneficial to workers so they can balance work around other commitments. We do expect however, that our suppliers manage the flexibility of the workforce responsibly.

We are a member of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment and are committed to the Employer Pays Principle.

We are a founding sponsor of the Responsible Recruitment Toolkit, which provides support to our supply chains in ensuring responsible recruitment.

Establishing positive relationships with our suppliers
Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP)

We are committed to building strong relationships with our suppliers. This is reinforced by the systems and controls we’ve put in place to comply with the Groceries (Supply Chain Practices) Market Investigation Order (the Order) and the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP)

We have reflected the requirements of GSCOP into our Terms of Trade which govern the trading relationship between M&S and our suppliers of food and household products. 

We have appointed a Code Compliance Officer who is supported by our in-house legal department. We also provide training on the requirements of GSCOP which includes refresher programmes and training for new starters.

We believe we are in full compliance with the Order and GSCOP. 

We value the regular engagement we have with the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) and each year we actively encourage our suppliers to participate in the independent survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Each year we also prepare an annual compliance report which we submit to the Competition and Markets Authority and Groceries Code Adjudicator. We include a summary of our compliance report in our Annual Report.

Fair prices and payment
We are committed to fair and transparent payment practices. We will not compromise on either our quality or our relationships with our suppliers and maintain a competitive stance on price. 

We have also signed up to the Prompt Payment Code. We make correct and full payment as and when due for all goods and services supplied in accordance with the contract or agreement. The majority of our suppliers of food and household products are on our standard terms and assuming our invoicing criteria are met payment is in the fourth week following receipt of goods. We will not deliberately delay or unreasonably withhold payment. Any action we take is always justifiable and proportionate (e.g. where goods are defective or have not been supplied).

Milk Pledge Plus
We introduced our industry-leading Milk Pledge Plus in 2000 which was created in collaboration with our dairy farmers and guarantees our pool of dedicated farmers a set price for fresh milk. This is based on independently verified cost of product indices which are reviewed every 6 months. As a result, we currently pay one of the highest prices in the UK (30.49 pence per litre as of April 2016). The premium we pay above the average farm gate prices means that we have invested an extra £22.5m into farm gate milk prices for our milk products over the past fifteen years. We have also worked closely with our dairy farmers to improve our fresh milk offer to our customers, including developing leading farm standards and animal welfare as well as producing milk with lower saturated fat than conventional milk. Find out more about our approach to sourcing dairy products.

Fairtrade
In 2005, we started to introduce ranges of Fairtrade products. Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. We have a wide range of Fairtrade products in our foodhalls, all of which help small-scale farmers and growers by paying them a Fairtrade price and a premium that protects against volatile market forces. We were the first major retailer to switch all our coffee and non-speciality tea to Fairtrade back in 2006. We also have a great selection of Fairtrade wines, chocolate, flowers, as well as biscuits and jams made with Fairtrade sugar. 


Wages

Within our supply chain we ensure all workers are paid at least the minimum wage. Overtime should always be compensated at a premium rate, and where piece work is used, suppliers must be able to demonstrate that the minimum wage is always met, that there is a fair test, and that rates are flexed according to conditions.

We continue to assess our food supply base to understand where the gaps between minimum wages and poverty benchmarks are highest. Some of the greatest gaps we have found are within sub-Saharan Africa, as a result of this we have undertaken two collaborative projects to start tackling this issue.

  • Kenyan green beans project – a 3 year Comic Relief funded project where we worked with Traidcraft and our supplier Flamingo looking at our green bean smallholder supply chain in Kenya. The project looked at how the value chain can work more effectively to provide a more stable income for smallholders
  • Malawi 2020 – we joined this tea revitalisation project in June 2015 in collaboration with the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH. The project was set up following concerns that wages paid to tea workers in Malawi do not meet international poverty benchmarks.
Measuring supplier satisfaction
Supplier satisfaction is a really important measure for us to understand how well we are engaging with our suppliers. Since 2012 we’ve used the independent Advantage Report Mirror to survey a proportion of our supplier base on our performance each year. We also run monthly listening groups and take part in the GSCOP survey which can also highlight any challenges suppliers come across.

The Advantage Report Mirror provides us with insights on how our suppliers think we’re performing against a number of areas. 

Suppliers confidentially rate our performance against 6 of our competitors and 7 performance areas including business relationships. Follow-up interviews then take place to add qualitative insights to the ratings. Suppliers are also asked to comment on the key challenges or issues they have when working with us. 

Checking that our food safety and integrity standards are met
Food Safety and Integrity Audits
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. One of the reasons we weren’t affected by the horsemeat scandal of 2013 was due to the controls we place on ingredients.

We routinely carry out audits of suppliers to ensure that our expectations on food safety and integrity are being met. All suppliers must agree to be audited on a specified frequency by M&S or their approved third parties against brand values, policy statements, Manufacturing Standards and Guidelines, and commit to taking action as a result of any findings. 

Whilst we believe our audit standards are robust and industry-leading, we know we cannot be complacent. Over the last 6 months, we've spent time consulting with our suppliers and industry experts on how we can improve. As a result, we are launching revised Manufacturing Standards at the end of 2021 in order to clearly communicate our expectations and help the supply base to continually improve.

All suppliers of Retail Products and M&S Controlled Raw Materials (‘A List’) are subject to the following audits:

  • Food Safety Audits are unannounced. Compliance is checked against our Food Safety Manufacturing Standard and Guidance (e.g. HACCP, cleaning, pest control, allergens, fabrication), which details all requirements as relevant to certain products or facilities (e.g. cooked meats and poultry, milk production standards, etc).
  • Integrity Audits are unannounced and we expect to be on the factory floor or in the office working within 15 minutes of arriving on site. Compliance is checked against a number of our key Codes of Practice (e.g. Segregation, Integrity, Quality, Ethical Trade, and our non-GM policy, etc)
Audits are carried out by FSIG (our approved third party audit providers), the length of which will depend on the size, scale and complexity of the product. 

New suppliers receive an initial New Supplier First Audit prior to supplying M&S. This checks compliance against all applicable Manufacturing Standards (such as food safety, brand integrity and animal welfare if applicable) which allows us to start production safely. This audit is done in preparation for proceeding to the next audits of Food Safety and Integrity. 

Based on the results of the audit, suppliers are assigned a rating based on the number and type of non-conformances and how they are progressing with addressing non-conformances from previous audits. Our audit gradings are as follows:

OutstandingExceeds M&S requirements 
GoodMeets M&S requirements 
Needs ImprovementImprovement needed to meet all M&S requirements
UnacceptableFailing to meet M&S requirements 
Existing suppliers are audited at a frequency determined by risk assessment. This could range from every 9 months to a maximum of once every 3 years.

Where new suppliers receive a Red grading, a re-audit is generally carried out prior to commencing supply to M&S. 


Audit findings and corrective actions are stored on our online Quality Management System (called Connect). The supplier must sign off all audit actions within agreed timescales. These are individually verified by FSIG.


Select Farm and Select Grower Audits
Suppliers of produce or protein also receive a ‘Select Farm’ Audit or are required to deliver a Select Farm Audit. 

These audits focus on the specific requirements facing suppliers of protein or produce into M&S (for example, standards of animal welfare, slaughter hygiene, crop management, pesticide usage, health and safety and labour standards and packhouse standards).

As part of this process we receive details of supplying farms and intermediary processing points (e.g. locations receiving live animals on site such as slaughterhouses/abattoirs). We keep this information confidential to ensure the integrity of our supplier’s supply chain but do use this information for audit and internal purposes. 

We outline our approach to checking compliance with our protein and produce standards in more detail within the raw materials, commodities and ingredients section of this website.


Ethical Audits
We aim to enhance the lives and support the local communities of the people who work for and with us. We’re committed to sourcing responsibly and we work closely with our suppliers to make sure they respect human rights, promote decent working conditions and improve sustainability across our supply base. 

Our Global Sourcing Principles set out our minimum global supplier standards on health and safety, labour standards, environment, business ethics, equality and community human rights topics such as land rights. These standards apply across our entire business. Find out more about our business wide approach to responsible sourcing. 

Our Human Rights Standard sets out our ethical audit requirements for suppliers of food and household products. We also have a number of supporting policies and guidelines on ethical trade. For example, we have a robust procedure in place for managing instances of child labour if found within our supply chain.
 
All sites used by suppliers of Retail Products and M&S Controlled Raw Materials (‘A List’) including processing and packing sites must be registered on the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex). Sedex is the largest collaborative platform for sharing ethical supply chain data. Each must be linked to M&S Food on the system and have completed in full the Sedex Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) modules on labour standards, health and safety, environment, and business ethics. 


Suppliers are risk assessed, based on their location and the nature of their supply chain, for audit requirements. The Sedex Radar Agricultural Country risk assessment is used to determine country risk. Sites that require an ethical audit must do so on a 2 year cycle. All audits must be uploaded onto the Sedex Platform, and must be a semi-announced Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA).

All new sites supplying into M&S must have registered on Sedex, completed the SAQ modules in full, and have had a valid audit prior to production starting.

We may in certain circumstances consider accepting SA 8000 and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) audits (if, for instance, they have been conducted within the last year) and the full reports are made available to us for review. Additional requirements also exist for suppliers of specific categories of product (e.g. Fairtrade certified items). 

Based on the results of the audit, suppliers are assigned a rating based on the number and severity of issues raised, as follows:

Grading Minor Major Critical 
Red 10+ 10+ 1 or more 
Bronze10+ 4-9 
Silver 4-9 1-3 
Gold 0-3 
We use the SMETA Non-Compliance Guidance to assess the severity of issues.

We also require all sites with more than 50 workers to have in place an elected worker committee or trade union.

Tracking of Ethical Non-compliance Issues

We actively track and follow up on our suppliers’ progress towards what they’ve agreed to address within their Corrective Action Plans as shown in the table below.

Table 1: Number of sites and workers on Sedex and location of audits (M&S Food Direct Suppliers and 'A List' Sites) - 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021
 

Continent

Suppliers sites

Audited Supplier sites

Workers at supplier sites

Audited Workers

Audits

Improvement Required

Improvement Required per audit

 Africa

65

16

41,340

17,621

16

83

5.19

 Asia

56

22

15,654

7,895

23

115

5.00

 Europe

878

143

256,185

37,939

146

440

3.01

 North 

 America

8

0

1,474

0

0

0

0.00

 Oceania

16

0

2,756

0

0

0

0.00

 South

 America

43

9

31,730

14,034

9

44

4.89

Grand Total

1,066

190

349,139

77,489

194

682

3.52

The following chart (Figure 1) presents the top 5 ethical trade non-compliance issue areas identified through ethical audits. Find out more about our approach to tackling salient human rights issues.

Non-compliance issues related to forced labour ('Employment is Freely Chosen'), 'Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining' and 'Discrimination' were less commonly identified. In part, this reflects how difficult it is to identify these more hidden or subtle issues through ethical audits.
Figure 1: Top 5 ethical non-compliance issue areas identified through audits in 2020/21

** M&S Salient Human Rights Issue – find out more about our approach to respecting human rights.

Agent Audits
Where we source through an agent we carry out Agent Audits to ensure that their management of and compliance with our requirements is evident for their relevant supplying sites and that they have the appropriate competencies. 

Agents are audited by FSIG (our approved audit provider) to a defined protocol that covers their responsibilities with regard to the application of our relevant policies, Business Standards and Guidelines at the sites they source finished products from. For example, looking at an agent’s process for checking the validity of any claims that are made about the product such as FSC, recycled content, etc.

Find out more about our approach to household products and packaging and hardware


Packaging
All suppliers are required to ensure that packaging used in both the finished product and for any food contact packaging has been sourced from a manufacturer audited and approved to the BRC Global Standards Packaging Standard (A or B Grade). We require this audit to be carried out by one of BRC Global Standards 4 or 5 star rated certification bodies.

Building capability within our supply chain
Supplier training and support

We’re committed to working with our suppliers to help them develop the necessary skills and competencies to meet our requirements by offering a range of training and development opportunities. 

Our training programmes cover a range of topics including integrity, pest control, allergen awareness, listeria investigation, and foreign body prevention. They are delivered through a variety of formats including e-learning, presentations, workshops, practical assessments, webinars or case studies. 

We have designed training programmes to educate suppliers about local laws, their rights at work, and our Global Sourcing Principles

We’ve launched a series of initiatives in partnership with educational colleges to provide the core skills needed to ensure the food industry’s future success. For example, we support degree students at Harper Adams University College and in 2013 we developed a unique, The M&S Agricultural Leadership Programme, in association with Cranfield University School of Management. Find out more about how we support educational programmes and British farming.

We actively work with our suppliers on supporting workers in our supply chain on programmes including leadership skills, financial literacy and health. We continue to develop our supplier scorecard with an intention to launch in 2021, covering a range of important issues. To ensure a smooth transition to a new programme, in 2020/21 we've focused on the conclusion of our previous supplier programme and launched three toolkits for suppliers on the issues of Ethical Trade, Environmental Sustainability and Lean Manufacturing

Working with our suppliers we're focusing on a smaller number of salient KPIs and outcomes to allow focus and create real change. This programme has undergone a series of tests at key suppliers and we plan to launch the new way of working as part of our plans for 2021/22. Alongside this, we are working with WWF and UK retailers to agree uniform KPIs on GHG emissions reporting.  

We also worked with Emerging Leaders to provide leadership training to around 50,000 supply chain workers in Kenya, east Africa and South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The training takes participates on an incredible journey to a new mind-set and empowers them to take others on the same journey as leaders in their communities. Many tell us that the programme has led to improved productivity, better retention of high quality, motivated employees and less dependency on casual labour.

Capacity building programmes

We have an aspiration to be a leading major retailer on sustainability, but we can only achieve this if we spark systemic, innovative change within our supply base. We appreciate that it can be challenging for our suppliers to meet our requirements. We also know that it can be difficult for many suppliers to see what this brings in terms of direct benefits to them. We need to understand and be sensitive to these issues. Capacity building is absolutely essential to making this happen.

Whilst ongoing monitoring of compliance is of course necessary and useful, it is not the be all and end all. For instance, solely focusing on individual non-compliances can result in underlying issues being missed. In addition, this approach may not identify emerging issues or support the development of a continuous improvement culture within our supply base. 

We therefore complement our existing activities by going ‘beyond compliance’ and defining areas of continuous improvement with our suppliers. We do this by providing a range of capacity building tools and incentives to align our respective goals and objectives. This includes capacity in terms of resources, technical skills, knowledge, as well as research and development. 

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.

We’re working with a large number of organisations to support our supplier management activities. We were founding members of the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex), which aims to drive improvements and convergence in responsible sourcing practices. Operationally we’re supported by a number of organisations including the Groceries Code Adjudicator, FSIG, SAI Global, and BRC Global Standards, and 3Keel to name but a few. 

We support a number of programmes that help improve working conditions in our supply base, in partnership with organisations such as Emerging Leaders and Fairtrade Foundation

Throughout this website, we explain how they, and our many other partners, are helping us address specific issues of relevance to supplier management.