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Marks & Spencer Plc.: Supply Chain Management


Marks & Spencer PLC is one of the leading retailers in the United Kingdom with a claim that it has over twenty-one million customers visiting its stores each week. Over seventy-five thousand people have found their employment in the company in its over six hundred stores in the UK alone and others worldwide. The company offers clothing with different styles, of high quality, in addition to home products and foods that are sourced from over two thousand suppliers from all over the world. The company has stated on its website that it is the leading provider of womenswear in the United Kingdom and it is currently venturing into mensware, childrenswear, home business, done online (Marks & Spencer PLC 2009, par. 1-2). This essay seeks to show Marks & Spencer’s policy towards its suppliers and how the company can adhere to its global sourcing principles and still remain competitive in terms of giving its customers the value they demand.

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Marks & Spencer PLC policy towards its suppliers

Supplier relationships

Marks and Spencer PLC company has strong trading relationships in the world with suppliers from China, Honduras, Israel, Kenya, Ireland, Indonesia, India, south Africa, United Kingdom, Spain, and Morocco among others. The company has introduced the semi-announced on-site assessment of its suppliers which is conducted within a period of three weeks; this being done to ensure that their global principles are being adhered to. The suppliers are enabled by the company to address complex issues like working conditions, this being done through networking, websites, and conferences (Marks & Spencer PLC 2009). The company has continued to work closely with the suppliers so as to make sure they adhere to high levels of quality. This they have done by encouraging them to utilize the most efficient and modern techniques of production (Cactus Connects 2009, par. 4).

Quality management systems

The company has upheld to using a management practice that is standardized across all its stores. This has been upheld by utilizing the top-to-the-bottom management approach. This involves every store following a central direction on layout, merchandising, and training that is aimed at simplifying the process of management (Cactus connects 2009, par. 7).

Global sourcing Principles

The company came up with a set of global sourcing principles in a joint venture with its suppliers. Together with its supplies, it has set standards relevant to the countries and industries that manufacture the products (Rose 2008, p. 2). On workforce rights, the company insists that all people working for the supplies must be treated with respect. The production sites are regularly accessed by the officials and the supplies for any possible improvements. The company requires the suppliers to meet local and international standards related to the environment (Rose 2008, p. 3).

Those people that work for the supplies must also be regarded with dignity with their safety, health, and human rights being promoted and protected. Also, the suppliers are required to agree with the company on the production sites for each order and are not allowed to subcontract orders from the agreed location (Rose 2008, p. 2).

Ethical Trading

The company has made it clear that it is a secular organization and thus it embraces all nationalities, cultures, religions, and races. It is not aligned to any states, governments, nations, countries, political parties, with this approach being applied when sourcing all the products. The company allows its customers to chose whether to buy certain products or not by labeling the country of origin. The suppliers are also supposed to adhere with local and national laws that are relevant such as health and safety, working conditions and hours, rates of pay, minimum employment age, and terms of employment. The suppliers are required to improve working conditions that are promoted by the Ethical Initiative, which is a group of trade unions, companies and human right groups (Marks & Spencer PLC, 2009).

Animal Welfare

The company aims to ensure that when animals are utilized to make its products, their welfare is taken care of with the wild animals’ populations being used sustainably. The suppliers are required to implement standards that are industry-recognized. This they do by cooperating with farmers who have a positive attitude towards animal welfare and also by adopting Farm Animal Welfare Council’s recommendations (Schindlmeier 2008, p1). Marks and Spencer have instructions for its suppliers that nonfood products are not to be produced from animals that are bred and slaughtered specifically for producing nonfood products and also from species that are regarded as endangered species. Raw materials from animals should be clearly labeled and synthetic materials that look like animal products should be labeled to avoid unnecessary confusion and offense. The company also states in its policy that it would not manufacture products that may degrade or be harmful to the animals (Schindlmeier 2008, p1).

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Fair trade

Fair trade certification gives Marks & Spencer’s “customers an independent guarantee that the farmers who produce the product get a fair price for their crop in addition to a fair-trade premium which is invested into the community.” For example, this company changed all the coffee and tea that was sold at fair-trade; 340,000 pounds in fair-trade premium going directly to the farmers to invest in their communities. This led to a 5% increase in sales of the following year (Marks & Spencer PLC, 2009).

How the company can adhere to its Global sourcing principles

Adhering to the global sourcing principles may not be easy for the company as it calls for great dedication and discipline among all of its stakeholders. The company should be careful when selecting the companies that are to supply services and products.

Some of the global source principles that this company has adopted include; one, the company and its suppliers being in a position to set standards that will be appropriate for the industries and countries that manufacture the products. It will be the responsibility of the suppliers to work towards the achievement and maintenance of the set standards. Secondly, the company should ensure that its workforce’s rights are protected making sure that each supplier complies with national and local laws regarding health and safety, minimum employment age, freedom of association, discipline, working hours, pay rates, terms of employment among others.

Thirdly, there should be an agreement between the company and the suppliers that all the products that are sold in any of the Marks & Spencer stores have labels with the country of origin. Also, the productions site(s) must be specified without allowing any subcontracting. Also, the company ensures that its suppliers access all the production sites and its staff to ensure continuous improvement. The company should at all times ensure that its suppliers adopt such principles as they deal with their own supplies and also be in a position to demonstrate that they are doing so. The company should support any improvements initiated by the suppliers but should also be quick to take action against those who do not adhere to the principles by canceling their contracts or stopping to trade with it (Rose 2009, 1-3).

For the company to develop success factors in developing successful global outsourcing ventures it may be required to believe, focus, and have ownership. This is possible by commitment from the staff and the management, supporting growth, and strengthening global delivery capabilities. They should also establish a relationship that is based on trust (inter-organizational) and transparency with their suppliers. Secondly, the company should focus on value by first defining concrete and a strong value proposition for services and projects that it selects and then create action plans that can address any perceived barriers. It should also evaluate the operation that is based on cost/performance instead of hourly rates as well as seeking for improved quality of deliverables (D’Mello 2007, p.4).

In addition, the other important factor of success is vigorous organization and processes. This can be achieved by executing global sourcing initiatives as a program with a long-term road map. A program office should also be implemented for the coordination of the right sourcing program which can push the company in an impartial way concerning the right opportunities of sourcing. Also, the dedicated focus should be ensured on transition and change management, with responsibilities and roles being enforced in the entire company (D’Mello 2007, p.4).


In conclusion, it is clear that Marks & Spencer PLC’s success in the retail business has been largely attributed to its policy towards its suppliers which include fair trade, animal welfare, supplier relationships, quality management systems, global sourcing principles and fair-trade. However for the company to adhere to its global sourcing principles and still remain competitive in terms of giving its customers the value they demand, it would have to follow some success factors.

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Cactus Connects 2009, Marks and Spencer’s Strategies, Web.

De’ Mello, R 2007, Global sourcing, Atos origin Nederland, Web.

Marks and Spencer 2008, Ethical trading, Web.

Rose, S 2008, Global sourcing principles, Marks & Spencer, Web.

Schindlmeier, P 2008, Animal welfare: Business principles, Web.

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