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Marks & Spencer

Is Marks & Spencer an ethical and sustainable fashion brand?

Marks & Spencer is a multinational UK-based fashion brand owned by the Marks & Spencer Group PLC. This brand has been given a poor Ethical Rating by The Good Shopping Guide. Unfortunately, this brand receives a low Good Shopping Guide Ethical score in our Ethical Fashion Retailer Ratings Table and has therefore not yet met our minimum Ethical Benchmark.

In what areas does Marks & Spencer perform poorly?

As a supermarket, as well as a clothing retailer, Marks & Spencer perform very poorly in our Animal Welfare research criteria.

Animal welfare advocates have said that supermarkets who advertise that they only purchase eggs from free-range hens actually purchase pheasants and partridges that have been raised in “cruel and environmentally harmful” cages. Regarding the treatment of game birds they sell as meat, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s have been charged with using different standards in each case. All supermarkets were approached by Animal Aid to inquire about their purchases from farms that confined breeding birds. According to opponents of game shooting, overcrowding in cages leads to high rates of injury and premature death, and many birds are equipped with constrictive face masks to reduce damage from anxious birds attacking one another. M&S “dodged our query 11 times in 18 months, and we are still awaiting an answer,” says Animal Aid.

Furthermore, an investigation by PETA into a poultry farm that supplies M&S saw “stressed birds struggling to stand, which may make it difficult for them to access water.” Additionally, PETA asserted that live birds were “packed” amongst the dead ones. This is not Marks & Spencer’s only controversy involving the company’s poor treatment of chickens.

Marks & Spencer also receives a low score for its treatment of the People in its supply chain. Despite committing to eradicating child labour, Syrian refugee children have been discovered in Turkey producing clothing for British design houses, including M&S. According to reports, teenagers as young as 15 were discovered working more than 12 hours a day. Seven Syrians were discovered working in one of Marks & Spencer’s major factories by BBC Panorama investigators. The refugees were paid in cash on the street by a middleman at a rate of about £1 per hour, which is significantly less than the Turkish minimum wage. The 15-year-old employee who was the youngest worked 12 hours a day ironing clothing before it was shipped to the UK.

In what areas does Marks & Spencer perform well? 

Marks & Spencer’s Complete Strategy A Report is thorough and contains specific goals, including its “mission to become a net zero business across our entire value chain by 2040.” The specificities of these goals and detailed tracking of its progress so far mean that both consumers and investors can hold the brand accountable to promises about the environment. That’s why we’ve given Marks & Spencer a good score for its Environmental Report. Marks & Spencer’s comprehensive Code of Conduct also attests to its good documentation which encourages brand accountability, responsible sourcing of labour and resources and good business practices. Read Marks & Spencer’s good Code of Conduct here.

The brand is also a member of the Better Cotton Initiative and the Ethical Trading Initiative.

How can Marks & Spencer improve its Ethical Rating?

The Good Shopping Guide’s score results from 15 ethical criteria in relation to Marks & Spencer. To reach our Ethical Benchmark and qualify for our Ethical Accreditation, Marks & Spencer has several issues to deal with, including its cruel and negligent treatment of Animals and People.

If your fashion brand values ethics and sustainability, why not check out The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Accreditation? Increase customer and investor confidence and stand out from the greenwash.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Organic


  • Nuclear Power


  • Better Cotton Initiative


  • Fossil Fuels



  • Animal Welfare



  • Armaments


  • Code of Conduct


  • Political Donations


  • Ethical Trading Schemes


  • Human Rights


  • Human Rights+



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Other Criticisms


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