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Fresh Produce is very important to M&S; we source over 100,000 tonnes of fresh whole fruit, vegetables and salad crops each year. At M&S, we know that the best food comes from the best growers, so when it comes to choosing the farms we work with, we go to great lengths.

We are proud to work with growers who uphold high production standards, but also who support workers and communities, provide wildlife habitats, protect soil and water resources and ensure the land is managed for the benefit of future generations. Due to the international and seasonal nature of Fresh Produce supply chains, this area is particularly high risk from a human rights and environmental perspective; our suppliers are facing significant pressures from climate change to systemic human rights issues such as worker exploitation. 

In the face of these challenges, working with responsible supplier partners and growers who uphold high standards and collaborating with specialists and the wider industry to address some of these challenges collectively is crucial to ensure we continue to supply our customers high quality produce in years to come, protect workers, support livelihoods and minimise environmental impact. 

Commitments and targets

As part of our commitment to responsible sourcing and supporting our farmers, we have introduced our M&S Farming with Nature programme. Covering 100% of our British Select Farms supplying produce including fruit, veg and salad. The five-year programme aims to support farmers with industry-relevant, specialist support and tools to help them to become more resilient and sustainable, and deliver measurable improvements to their businesses, while encouraging the uptake of nature-friendly farming practices. Find out more about the programme here. 

As an evolution to these plans we will extend our environmental programme across international fresh produce growers too in 2022. 

On human rights, our ambition is to accelerate change by leading with others. We’re committed to working collaboratively with suppliers, civil society, governments and other businesses on human rights to inform our approach, participating in coalitions such as the Spanish Ethical Trade Forum and the FLA, sharing our experiences and helping to address root causes and influence systemic positive change. 

Our dedicated team of agricultural specialists work with our suppliers and our Select Farms to keep improving. We check how our farmers are doing through regular visits and audits and encourage and support them to measure and improve social and environmental outcomes. Our approach to sourcing the most responsible produce focuses on:

Establishing and maintaining clear minimum sourcing standards

Minimum sourcing principles
Our Technical Terms of Trade set our minimum technical expectations for suppliers to meet. It also sets out our position on a number of areas.

Nothing is more important to us than food safety. We believe our product standards are industry-leading. We require all products to be made by suppliers who are technically competent within their specific area and who operate well-managed hygienic locations applying Good Manufacturing Practice, a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach and due diligence to ensure safety, legality, integrity and consistent quality. Find out more about our approach to product standards.

The following minimum standards exist across our entire produce supply chain:

  • We require complete supply chain traceability
  • As a minimum all our farms and growers must be independently assured to Global GAP or UK Red Tractor standards
  • Produce must be sourced in accordance with our Non-GM Foods Policy and Non-GM Foods Code of Practice – only non-GM ingredients and derivatives can be used
  • Use of pesticides must be actively reduced and be in accordance with our Pesticides Policy (which has been independently reviewed by Pesticide Action Network UK) – detectible residues must be minimised
  • Comply with our M&S Select Grower Standards (see below)
M&S Select Farm Food Safety Assurance Standards
Our M&S Select Farms Assurance standards are set out in our Codes of Practice and cover a wide range of product. They now now apply to suppliers of basic fresh produce, prepared produce, frozen produce, and produce in chilled/short shelf-life products.

The fundamental approach is to ensure that the produce entering our supply chain is safe, grown in a way that ensures it is free from contamination and is harvested, packed and processed to ensure that no contaminants are introduced. It is based on a risk assessment and a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach which considers the following:

  • Physical including foreign body management
  • Chemical
  • Allergen (particularly nuts and peanuts)
  • Microbiological
The following elements are also covered:

  • Manure use
  • Chemical use
  • Water source/quality and water use/application methods
  • Composting protocols
  • Planting and drilling guidelines
  • Harvesting protocols
  • Equipment hygiene
  • Worker hygiene
  • Allergen control
Different crops present different food safety risks so we classify fresh produce  as either high risk or low risk based on a risk assessment. The risk assessment takes into consideration historical food safety issues, the nature of the product and current agronomic practices, to determine the level of risk. Product that is classified as a high risk will have a Select Farm audit conducted annually. They must also be Global Gap or Red Tractor certified. Those crops identified as low risk must as minimum be Global Gap or Red Tractor certified.  

Every stage of the produce supply chain supplying into M&S needs to be audited (i.e. grower and packers). In principle, each layer in the supply chain is required to audit the layer below. Our direct suppliers can carry out the Select Farm audit, providing they have completed and passed the Select Farm training programme. The ultimate responsibility for compliance rests with the direct supplier though. 

Audits are carried out and reported using audit and reporting platforms especially developed for M&S by Muddy Boots.
M&S Select Farms Human Rights Requirements
Our direct suppliers are responsible for ensuring every site supplying M&S, including growers and packers, meet our minimum labour standards which are set out in our Global Sourcing Principles

The international and seasonal nature of our produce supply chain means that there is a high level of ethical trade risk around fresh produce. We require our suppliers to actively assess and manage this risk on a continual basis on our behalf. We have developed a Code of Practice which sets out our M&S Food Human Rights Requirements for Select Farm Produce to support them in this process. 

All sites supplying M&S must be registered on the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) prior to any supply starting, have linked to M&S Foods, and completed all sections of the Sedex self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) in full.

Suppliers are risk assessed, based on their location and the nature of their supply chain, for audit requirements. All growers must be risk assessed by our direct suppliers. Risk is driven by a range of criteria such as management systems, provision of transportation and accommodation, use of migrant or seasonal labour and previous ethical history. 


With a partnership of over 25 years M&S was one of Fairtrade’s earliest supporters.

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, including bananas, all of which help small-scale farmers and growers by paying them a Fairtrade price and a premium that protects against volatile market forces.

M&S Select Farms Environmental Standards

As part of our Select Farms requirements and Farming with Nature programme in the UK, M&S requires all UK growers to be LEAF Marque certified (Linking Environment and Farming) by the end of 2021. Currently 90% of our growers are LEAF Marque. In addition, M&S is being supported by LEAF to deliver a programme of verified Farming with Nature modules for M&S growers covering multiple areas from biodiversity to water use. This programme of modules aims to support M&S growers to enhance environmental outcomes and will be complemented by a suite of support for growers from FWAG and the Wildlife Trusts. Read more about our Farming with Nature programme here.

As part of our Select Farms requirements, our suppliers have been working over the last 3 years to embed environmental farming standards across their international M&S grower base too, from Organic, to Rainforest Alliance, to country specific schemes like SIZA EPA in South Africa. As part of our Plan A strategy and International Farming with Nature programme plans we are reviewing our international standard requirements and will share plans further detail in 2022.

Crop Protection

Pesticides have clear benefits in agriculture; however, we recognise the biodiversity and health risks their over-use can bring. To tackle this, we ensure pesticide use is reduced where possible and is in accordance with our M&S Pesticide Policy, which has been independently reviewed by Pesticide Action Network UK. We updated our policy in 2021 to strengthen requirements, including a stronger role of Integrated Pest Management. 

As part of our Farming with Nature programme, with partners we will provide specialist support and guidance for growers to enhance their Integrated Pest Management best practices and enable them to demonstrate progress on reducing reliance on pesticides, through our partnership with LEAF and our Indicator and Innovation farm network.

Contingency supply
Whilst we would prefer all our supply chains to be fully audited there are situations which arise where contingencies are required. 

Contingency situations might include availability of certain crops, trials of new crop innovations, or where a crop is unique to a country which is outside of our standard supply.

In these instances, we require our supplier or grower to submit certain evidence in support of any application for contingency supply. For example, the grower is Global GAP certified, is registered on Sedex and has completed the SAQs, is used by other retailers, has pesticide residue analysis, has risk assessments and HACCP plans available, and so on. 

We have strict protocols in place to manage this eventuality and to prevent a contingency grower being used for more than one season. If a grower does continue to supply into another season then they become a permanent grower and go through our full assurance process.

Pollinators are vital for the production of much of the fresh produce and their decline is a key risk to our business. M&S already asks all UK growers to be LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Marque certified, which requires them, for example, to provide food for bees and pollinators on their farms. With the support of LEAF over the next few years we are delivering a programme for all M&S growers in the UK, aiming to enhance nature-friendly outcomes which will see all growers monitoring pollinators, managing a minimum of 5% habitat area on their farms for wildlife and demonstrating a reduced reliance on pesticides. We are also working with expert partners and growers to test and learn innovative pollinator-friendly farming methods, like planting wildflower strips inside soft fruit polytunnels.

During Spring 2021 M&S introduced British honeybees to 25 M&S Select Farms. By introducing hives to our grower’s farms, we’re supporting local British honey production and our Select Farms to pollinate their crops. We are committed to supporting and growing British beekeeping. To do that we understand it is important to produce honey responsibly and to avoid any negative impact on wild pollinators. Together with Fera’s National Bee Unit and in consultation with leading NGOs and experts, we are working on a Responsible Honeybee Farming Standard.
 We are also working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and are supporting them to help further educate the nation (and ourselves) on all we can do to boost the future of wild bees in the UK. Find out more here.

Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capacity within our supply chain

Research and innovation
We have invested in R&D and innovation for many years in order to improve crop breeding and agronomic practices that benefit farmers and the environment.

Our approach is to work collaboratively with our suppliers, farmers and growers to establish the crop or industry need and then align with the most relevant industry research partner.

We work closely with centres of excellence, such as universities, agricultural colleges and research institutes, to ensure our products and processes remain up to date and industry leading. 

As part of our Farming with Nature programme in the UK, we are working with a network of 5 Indicator and Innovation farms across the UK across fruit, vegetables and salad. Together with farmers and partners we are trialling new ways of farming in harmony with nature and measuring environmental improvements and benefits to those farming businesses over time. M&S-funded partners from the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and Fera Science will provide science, technologies and advice to support the farms in identifying opportunities to improve environmental performance and adapt to the challenges ahead. We are working with a number of these farms with a technology-led approach, aiming to provide new insights for farmers on the biodiversity on their farms, using novel methods from DNA to remote sensing and mapping using drone and satellite data. Learnings and insights will be shared across all of our UK Select Farms and the wider industry over time.

Supporting programmes which enhance the lives of people and communities

Worker Programmes

We actively work with our suppliers on supporting workers in our supply chain on programmes including leadership skills, financial literacy and health. 

For example, we decided to work with Emerging Leaders an NGO that provided 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.

Water stewardship

Water stress remains one of the top risks to society overall and is one of the largest global sourcing risks for fresh produce- over 80% of our produce suppliers operate in water stressed regions. 

We’ve made a good start on our water stewardship journey, through historical partnerships with WWF and through our close relationships with suppliers. Our first step was to review our ‘at risk’ sourcing regions using the WWF Water Risk filter, which we mapped our supply base against. In 2017, we published “The Water Stewardship Journey for Businesses” in collaboration with WWF, which summarises our joint learnings in implementing collective action and influencing governance and provides an overview of how we address water stewardship within our business and supply chain. 

Cross-industry collaboration is vital to delivering water stewardship effectively and enabling scale. In 2020, the SAI Platform Doñana Berry project completed, which we supported for over five years. The project focused on supporting sustainable berry production in the Doñana region in southern Spain, with an emphasis on reducing water use. The Doñana project enabled collective action such as engaging authorities on water governance and through training, and monitoring programmes supported water savings equivalent to 343 Olympic swimming pools. 

We continue to collaborate with the wider industry and support the WRAP Courtauld Commitment 2030 Water Ambition. As part of the water ambition, we are also directly supporting and funding water stewardship projects in the UK and South Africa.  

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

To develop our approach to sourcing produce to a high standard of food safety, quality and more sustainably we’ve worked with many industry experts and scientists. We continue to work with these leading organisations (e.g. LEAF, Global GAP, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN), Red Tractor Assurance), Farm and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), The Wildlife Trusts, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Fera Science, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust)to further research and progress our standards. 

Operationally, we’re supported by our suppliers, the University of Leeds and Muddy Boots (who manage all our M&S Select Grower audit data).