M&S to survey supply chain staff on working conditions

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is set to forge greater transparency within its clothing supply chain by communicating directly with thousands of workers on the ground via mobile technology.

The retailer intends to survey around 22,500 workers four times a year on various topics such as working conditions and financial literacy, with a view to empowering them.

It has has signed a one-year deal with social enterprise technology provider Good World Solutions to facilitate the communication using Labor Link, technology that collates anonymous, quantitative survey results direct from supply chain workers.

Workers listen to questions on their mobile phones in Hindi, Sinhalese, or another local language, and respond using their touch-tone keypad.

As part of its Plan A programme, M&S has already tested the technology with 13 suppliers in India and Sri Lanka, surveying over 2,000 workers as part of its financial literacy and health and nutrition training programmes.

In India, factory workers completed a survey on banking, savings, and insurance, ahead of a scheduled Plan A training course on financial literacy while in Sri Lanka, workers completed a survey on health, balanced diet, and disease prevention before and after M&S’s Healthy Week training programme.

The retailer will now roll out the service to 30 factories and 22,500 workers in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

According to M&S’s head of ethical sourcing Fiona Sadler, the initiative is “an innovative breakthrough” for the company, moving workplace communication into the digital era.

“It’s not about checking up on our suppliers, it’s about making sure we’re doing the right things for the workers in our supply chain and giving them a voice,” she said.

“We don’t directly employ workers in the factories, but they make Marks & Spencer products, take part in Marks & Spencer training programmes and have a stake in our brand. It’s important to know whether we’re getting things right.”

Maxine Perella

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