How can a company tackle modern slavery?

Marks & Spencer is a global multichannel retailer, meaning its business spans many territories, suppliers, smallholders and other organisations organised in a complex supply chain. Millions of people are therefore involved in its operations. As per the Modern Slavery Act 2015, it must publish a Modern Slavery Act statement each year, detailing the steps it is taking to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in its business or supply chain.

Modern slavery

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are 21 million people around the world who are trapped in some form of forced labour, including trafficking, debt bondage and child labour. The second-largest criminal industry in the world isn’t only happening abroad. In the U.K., an estimated 13,000 people are working as slaves in industries such as agriculture, fishing and hospitality.

Beyond compliance

For some time before the 2015 legislation, Marks & Spencer sought to lead on human rights. Its Human Rights advisory group, reporting into the Operating Committee and Group Board seeks to engage with affected stakeholders directly, identify opportunities for outcome-oriented initiatives that achieve systemic change, embed learning into organisational DNA and develop new ways to measure which efforts are succeeding.

Supplier involvement

Marks & Spencer requires all of its suppliers to comply with its Global Sourcing Principles. These ethical policies subject suppliers to audit assessments, demand good working conditions, fair treatment and reasonable pay and state that suppliers must respect workers’ human rights. Above all, work must be voluntary, require no payment from the worker and workers must be free to leave at any time. Following an extensive survey of its suppliers, it has produced a toolkit to help those meet the standard necessary to comply with the principles.

According to its 2017 Modern Slavery Statement, during 2016-17 Marks & Spencer identified 20 cases of non-compliance under the heading “employment is freely chosen”. In all instances, it has verified evidence of suppliers taking corrective action or is working with suppliers to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour.

This story shows how Marks & Spencer supports Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, specifically Target 8.7: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

About Marks & Spencer

Marks and Spencer plc (also known as M&S) is a major, British, multinational retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London, UK. Founded in 1884, by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer, it specialises in the sale of clothing, homewares, and luxury food items. The company has 979 stores throughout the UK, as well as 454 international outlets.

Learn more about Marks & Spencer.

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