Retailers team up with UK government to improve lives of supply chain workers

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
29 January 2014

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29 January 2014 | Will Green

A dozen high street food and clothing retailers have teamed up with the UK government to provide aid and support to workers in their supply chains.

The 12 firms, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, will provide a range of educational and training programmes to benefit more than 700,000 workers and farmers in Kenya, South Africa and Bangladesh.

The partnership was announced by international development secretary Justine Greening in a speech to the London Stock Exchange on Monday, where she also said spending on economic development would more than double to £1.8 billion in 2015/16.

Greening said: “Economic development is, without question, the only way countries can leave behind enduring and chronic poverty for good.”

Under the partnership Sainsbury’s will invest in a radio show for farmers in Kenya providing education and skills and M&S will develop the management skills of farm workers in Kenya and South Africa. Meanwhile, Tesco, Debenhams, Primark, Asda, River Island, John Lewis, C&A, M&Co, Next and Morrisons will improve management in Bangladeshi garment factories; while Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda are to invest in fruit farm workers in South Africa.

Louise Nicholls, head of responsible sourcing at M&S, said: “This innovative approach makes firm business sense for us while delivering real benefits to workers and their communities.”

Giles Bolton, director of ethical trading at Tesco, said the work of retailers in Bangladesh meant the wages of 67,000 garment workers had increased by £3.4 million. “We’re pleased to be working with the Department for International Development to help improve the lives of young people in South Africa and Bangladesh,” he said.

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s Brand, said: “By investing in nurturing skills, supporting development and encouraging healthier lives, Sainsbury’s is ensuring our customers will have the best quality fresh products today and in the years ahead.”

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