// M&S’s supply chains involve in-work poverty, discrimination and health concerns, according to Oxfam study
// M&S said it will ensure every person who works in its supply chain is treated fairly and their human rights are respected
A study by Oxfam has revealed that Marks & Spencer’s grocery and footwear supply chains at home and abroad involves in-work poverty, discrimination and health concerns.
Around 400 people were interviewed for the report at food manufacturing premises in the UK and leather footwear factories in India that supply a range of retailers as well as M&S.
Oxfam undertook the study to improve M&S’s understanding of the issues, which do not often register in audits because of worker fears.
Oxfam found “a disconnect between the information that M&S managers receive about conditions in workplaces, based largely on third-party ethical audits, and what workers report as their experience”.
The charity said that M&S needs to “move away from a reliance on compliance and audits and explore alternative methods of assuring standards, such as better worker representation and reporting channels and business practices that drive positive change”.
“This joint project gave Oxfam a rare opportunity to hear directly from workers in M&S’s supply chain,” Oxfam workers’ rights senior manager Rachel Wilshaw said.
“What they told us makes for uncomfortable reading. Workers described many problems that don’t normally come to light because of a lack of trust in reporting channels.
“For M&S to open up its supply chain to Oxfam’s scrutiny shows it is willing to engage on difficult issues and open to improve. We need more companies to do the same.”
M&S responded by saying it understood there was a direct link between how people were treated, and the value created through the supply chain, “and the best way to ensure this was through long-term partnerships with trusted suppliers”.
The retailer also said its founding values have been codified into its Global Sourcing principles, with the aim of ensuring that every person who works in its supply chain is treated fairly and their human rights are respected and promoted.
M&S head of sustainable business Carmel McQuaid said: “Setting standards in our own supply chains, however rigorous, can only set a baseline.
“To be serious about ensuring everyone who works with M&S is treated with decency and respect, we must hold a mirror up to make sure the reflection is true.
“For this reason, we asked Oxfam to conduct a gap analysis of our supply chain. The findings have made clear that, whilst audits remain a key tool for businesses, nothing beats hearing directly from workers.
“As part of our response, we have already taken action to scale our worker voice programmes and we commit to share our learning about what works and to help drive meaningful industry-wide change.”