29 April 2004 | Andrew Golder
Marks and Spencer has come top of a list of 35 FTSE 350 companies for socially responsible supply chains in developing countries.
M&S scored 84 per cent when answering questions in the analysis by asset managers Insight Investment and pressure group AccountAbility.
But 31 of the 35 companies scored less than 50 per cent. Sixteen of them scored 25 per cent or less.
Companies were given percentage scores for work in areas including auditing their supply chain, stakeholder engagement and management.
Food retail companies scored the highest, with beverage and tobacco companies faring worst.
Rachel Crossley, director of investor responsibility at Insight Investment, said most firms risked lawsuits and damages to their reputation by failing to promote best practice in supply chain labour standards.
Fourteen companies did not disclose their labour policy or had one that did not meet International Labour Organisation standards.
"If you don't treat your workers well, productivity, the quality of the product and morale will suffer," said Crossley.
Employees might also sue the parent company, she added.
But Crossley believed that within three years, most companies would have robust procedures to monitor labour standards.
Many companies already have a board member in charge of supply chain or labour policy.
"It's the first step, then it takes a long time if you have hundreds or thousands of suppliers to push that policy through the business."