Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer have set up their Fairtrade range. Their ethical drive involves launching a Fairtrade cotton clothing range. This move is part of the new “Look Behind the Label” campaign, which informs shoppers as to the way the group sources its products.

M&S are also working towards cutting salt and fat in M&S foods, recycling packaging and protecting animal welfare.

The move comes as UK consumers show an increased appetite for so-called fair trade products. In 2008, Fairtrade Foundation figures demonstrated that sales of ethical products increased by more than 50% during 2004.

Shoppers Conscience

A recent survey commissioned by M&S demonstrated that nearly a third of shoppers placed clothes back on the rails due to their concerns about their origins.

Survey findings highlighted:

  • 78% of shoppers wanted more information as to how the clothes has been made, including the use of chemicals, as well as the conditions in those factories producing the goods.
  • In terms of food shopping, 25% of shoppers had placed goods back on the shelves due to concerns as to where the food had come from as well as how it had been made.
  • The launch of Fairtrade cotton builds on the innovative work M & S have done in areas like sustainable fishing, reducing salts, fats and additives in food as well as banning harmful chemicals from children’s clothing.

Supply constraints

There is such a limited stock of Fairtrade cotton which means that to begin with the new M&S range will only have men’s and women’s T-shirts and socks. They will be available at only 40 stores.

There is an intention to extend the Fairtrade cotton range to various other stores when more supplies of Fairtrade cotton became available, given that there is sufficient demand.

The cotton itself comes from farmers in Gujerat, India, who get a set price for their cotton. They also receive a Fairtrade premium which ought to enable them to improve their working and living conditions.

M&S is considered to be the “first major retailer” to sell a Fairtrade clothing range when the goods are sold in March, Mr Rose added that it was “unlikely” that the chain’s whole clothing range would become Fairtrade.

However, he vowed to extend the selection of goods available and the number of stores carrying them when more Fairtrade cotton becomes available.

Global Sourcing Principles

For several years Marks & Spencer has sought to ensure its goods are produced in good working conditions. This supports the company’s core principles of providing its own workforce with meaningful jobs as well as providing customers with high quality products. Marks & Spencer and the company’s suppliers discovered from experience that when people are treated respectfully, in decent working conditions with fair rates of pay, both they and their companies benefit from increased employee productivity and commitment. In addition, customers benefit from goods which offering better quality and value.

Development of agreed standards between the company and its suppliers has helped this set of standards to come about. This has been done by a regular pattern of visits as well as a policy of continual improvement, supported by strict sanctions when standards are not achieved.

Growing global expansion and international competition have presented new challenges. As a leading retailer selling diverse products under its own exclusive brand in thirty plus countries, Marks & Spencer works with numerous suppliers across the world.

Many of Marks & Spencer’s suppliers have their own suppliers, who are in turn supplied by others. It would not be possible for Marks & Spencer to control the working conditions of each person within this vast network to what eventually becomes a Marks & Spencer product. Nonetheless, the company is determined to do what it possibly can to ensure adherence to the principles that they believe in. Hence, Marks & Spencer’s has published its company-wide Global Sourcing Principles.

They clearly set out that all direct suppliers’ (those with whom Marks & Spencer directly contract for both goods and services) facilities accord with what Marks & Spencer consider to be acceptable standards and continually improve them. The company enforces these principles amongst direct suppliers, encouraging implementation further down the supply chain.

Marks & Spencer very carefully selects companies who supply them directly with goods and services and those with whom they aim to build long term partnerships. Right from the beginning it requires each supplier to implement their Global Sourcing Principles, which sets a minimum acceptable entry standard. As the business relationship develops, Marks & Spencer expects the supplier steadily to raise standards and improve working conditions, taking account of internationally recognized standards.

Supplier’s Responsibility

Marks & Spencer establishes a set of standards with each supplier, including specifications appropriate to industries and countries producing those goods. It is the supplier’s responsibility to attain and maintain these standards.

Workforce Rights

Those working for Marks & Spencer suppliers need to be treated with respect. Their health, safety and basic human rights are to be protected and promoted. Each supplier must, as a minimum, fully comply with all relevant local and national laws and regulations, particularly in regard to:

  • Working hours and conditions, rates of pay and terms of employment.
  • Minimum age of employment

Furthermore, whatever the local regulations, workers ought to be a minimum of 15 years old. As a norm, they ought to be free to join lawful trade unions or worker’s associations.

Production Sites and Labelling

Suppliers of goods have to agree with Marks & Spencer in advance the production site or sites to be used for every order. No subcontracting of the orders from these agreed locations is allowed. All goods must be labelled with their country of origin.

Regular Assessment

All production sites are to be regularly visited and assessed by Marks & Spencer suppliers and by the companies own staff. In unison, they strive for continual improvement.

Environmental Responsibility

At the minimum, suppliers need to meet all relevant local and national regulations. In addition, Marks & Spencer expects them to steadily improve their environmental performance by aiming to comply with international standards.

Dedicated Production Units

Upon Marks & Spencer having established significant levels of business with a supplier, it expects the supplier to produce their goods in units, and with workers, dedicated to Marks & Spencer orders.

Commitment to Extending Principles through the Supply Chain

Marks & Spencer expects its suppliers to adopt similar principles in dealing with those who, in turn, supply them. Suppliers need to apply these principles at all times and demonstrate that they are doing so. Marks & Spencer will take action against suppliers who do not comply, which may involve cancelling its orders and stopping trade.

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