The UK government has partnered with retailers, including Marks and Spencer (M&S) and Tesco, on a £7m programme to support workers and build resilience in global supply chains.
The programme, known as the “Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility”, will “ensure the steady supply of products” such as vegetables, coffee and clothes to the UK high street after many overseas suppliers were forced to shut down due to coronavirus.
The funding will be used to improve coronavirus preparedness in workplaces, including better working conditions, access to healthcare and health information, and support for employees safe return to work, the Department for International Development (DFID) said.
The facility will also help fund programmes that allow farmers to diversify the crops they produce to meet demand and to help farms and factories put processes in place to keep production going and support the most vulnerable workers.
“This will help make workplaces safer, meaning employees can return to work and supply chains can keep moving and become more resilient,” DFID said.
The funding will be used to focus on supply chains in some of the world’s poorest countries, including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana.
The UK imports 20% of food and drink imports from developing countries, but supply chains have been put at risk as factories and farms close to manage the outbreak of Covid-19.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK’s international development secretary, said: “We want to ensure people in Britain can continue to buy affordable, high quality goods from around the world.
“This new fund will strengthen vital supply chains for UK consumers, while supporting some of the most vulnerable workers in developing countries. It will make a real difference to people in the UK and abroad.”
Retailers and organisations partnering in the scheme include M&S, Primark, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Care UK, the Fairtrade Foundation, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Women Working Worldwide.
Fiona Sadler, head of ethical trading for M&S said: “At M&S we have a robust approach to ethical fashion - we know we’re only as strong as the communities where we operate and we’re committed to helping improve the lives of workers in our supply chain through collaborative initiatives.”