UK retail giant Marks & Spencer is to stop sourcing from Myanmar. The decision for a ‘responsible exit’ follows an independent study, commissioned by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), which raised concerns over human rights abuses across the country after last year’s military coup.
In statement, M&S said it had continued to monitor the market closely in Myanmar, through its partnership with the ETI as well as on-the-ground audit process. “The findings from the Myanmar Enhanced Due Diligence Sectoral Assessment demonstrate that it is impossible for our Global Sourcing Principles to be upheld,” the statement said. “We do not tolerate any human rights abuses within any part of our supply chain and are now working towards a responsible exit from Myanmar, in line with our Responsible Exit Policy, which will see an exit by March 2023.
“Over the next six months, we will continue to work closely with relevant stakeholders including the Ethical Trading Initiative throughout the consultation process, to ensure that our suppliers adhere to national laws and human rights are upheld.
“We are also looking at what additional measures we can put in place to mitigate the effects of the decision on the individual workers in Myanmar.”
The study, funded by Aldi South, Bestseller, H&M, Inditex, Marks and Spencer, New Look, Primark and Regatta, along with the Fair Wear Foundation, stopped short of advising brands to pull out of Myanmar because of the likely economic impact on garment workers.
However, it concluded that, based on interviews with 3,120 workers from 70 factories in Myanmar, interviews with key cross-sector stakeholders and desk-based research, there was clear evidence of gross human rights abuses in the garment sector.
That prompted Primark to announce it was withdrawing from Myanmar last month while the global trade union IndustriALL urged other brands and retailers sourcing from the country to follow suit.
IndustriALL said that the ETI report confirmed its case that it was not possible to conduct responsible business in Myanmar. Marks and Spencer at that time said it was considering its position.
Other retailers sourcing from the country are said to include H&M, Inditex, Lidl and New Look.