Marks & Spencer plans to cut its food supplier base

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Management, Greenhouse gas

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is looking to reduce the number of its food and drink suppliers, under strategic plans that its head of agriculture and fisheries has revealed.

Steve McLean also disclosed that M&S had no intention of reducing the level of scrutiny it applied to suppliers – despite recognition that multiple audits had become overly burdensome for many.

“Our strategy is to have a clearly aligned, well utilised, efficient supply base that delivers quality, innovative products, profitability and allows everyone to reinvest,” ​Steve McLean told the Chartered Institute of Marketing food and drink group in London last month. “Part of that is M&S becoming more significant to fewer suppliers over time.”

Stringent scrutiny of its supply chain meant that M&S was one of only two leading UK retailers that did not fall foul of the 2013 horsemeat in beef scandal and didn’t have to withdraw products from its shelves, claimed McLean.

2013 horsemeat in beef scandal

M&S uses its own system of auditing suppliers, rather than using, for example, third-party certification of food safety.

“We need to make sure that we have got an audit and due diligence system that ensures we do not get caught out and never let our customers down,”​ Steve McLean told Food Manufacture ​in a question and answer session following his talk about M&S’s expectations from its suppliers.

“Food safety audits, integrity audits, hygiene audits and welfare audits – they are a reality and what we need to do for fairly complex supply chains to ensure we never let our customers down,”​ said McLean. “We do have our own audit programme across the supply chain. We believe​ [these audits] are really relevant and some would argue that in some sectors they have become far more relevant.

“So, I know it is a burden for the supply base and we are looking at how we can carry out the audit programme and deliver what we require in the most cost-effective way. But we are never going to lump in our requirements with everybody else.”

M&S’s sustainable sourcing policies

McLean’s talk also covered M&S’s sustainable sourcing policies and its Plan A commitments to 2025, recently launched.

By 2022 all of our strategic food suppliers will be required to have implemented a 10-year strategic climate mitigation and action plan​,” he said. “The good news is it is about working collaboratively with our suppliers.”

McLean also revealed that by 2025, all of the edible surplus food from M&S’s stores would be diverted for human consumption, reducing its net waste by 20%.

By 2030, the retailer would reduce its indirect greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30.3Mt, and by 2018, it would be reporting on its animal welfare and environmental record for all of its farmed species, he added.

Related topics: Supply Chain

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