M&S runs risk of brand damage due to unethical suppliers

The “sweatshop scandal” that has swept up Marks & Spencer alongside Gap and Next could be far more damaging to M&S than its rivals, say brand experts.

The Observer newspaper revealed that clothing factories in India supplying the three high street retailers were paying workers just 25p or 26p an hour and forcing them to work overtime, leaving their children unattended.

The newspaper said that some staff were obliged to work as many as 16 hours a day at rates of pay that were less than the minimum required by Indian law.

M&S, Next and Gap have all said that they have already solved or are actively working to address breaches of conduct and improve the situation quickly.

Chris Arnold, creative director of Creative Orchestra, says the allegations are “devastating” for M&S’s Plan A claims and says that the retailer will lose the trust of consumers.

“Plan A assures consumers that everything is ethical. Some brands can take the hit, but when a brand like M&S puts itself on a pedestal, it falls a long way.

“Next is okay because it is not touting its ethical credentials.”

However, Matt Piner, senior retail analyst at Verdict says that it will take more than these claims to shake trust in Plan A. He said: “M&S has invested a huge amount in promoting the Plan A brand and consumers have embraced it.

“One of the benefits of placing responsibility at the core of what you do is that it takes more than a few passing allegations to damage consumer perceptions.”

Earlier this year M&S added a further 80 sustainability commitments to its 100-point Plan A programme, which included extending its commitment to “Fair Partnership” and “ensuring workforces and communities benefit in our supply chain”.

An M&S spokesperson said that the retailer took “ethical sourcing and trust in our brand extremely seriously”.

Piner adds that M&S should take the report as a reminder that its supply chain is “a crucial part of the commitment it has made to its customers”.

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here