Marks & Spencer plans to use mobile tech to get in direct contact with workers in its clothing supply chain, having signed a contract with social media firm Good World Solutions.
Fiona Sadler, head of ethical sourcing, said: “This is an innovative breakthrough for us and moves workplace communication into the digital era. It’s not about checking up on our suppliers, it’s about making sure we’re doing the right things for the workers in our supply chain and giving them a voice.”
Under the one year deal, M&S will survey workers using Labor Link, a technology that returns anonymous, quantitative survey results.
Workers will listen to questions on their mobile phones in Hindi, Sinhalese, or other local languages, and respond using their touch-tone keypad.
As part of its Plan A programme, M&S has already tested the technology with 13 suppliers in India and Sri Lanka, surveying over 2,000 workers as part of M&S’ financial literacy and health and nutrition Plan A training programmes.
With the support of its suppliers, M&S will now roll out the service to 30 factories and 22,500 workers in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, gathering feedback on subjects such as working conditions, job satisfaction and training.
“We don’t directly employ workers in the factories, but they make Marks & Spencer products, take part in Marks & Spencer training programmes and have a stake in our brand,” said Sadler.
“It’s important to know whether we’re getting things right. The real time data Labor Link can deliver for us will be invaluable in shaping our policies and programmes.”
Heather Franzese, director of Good World Solutions, said: “As the first UK company to give workers a voice through mobile technology, M&S is really taking a leadership position. There are 4.5 billion mobile subscriptions in the developing world. This is a truly disruptive innovation in ethical trade – enabling workers and buyers to connect directly.”
• Findings from a pilot survey of M&S workers in South Asia found that 59 per cent of survey participants have their own bank account. That compares to 95 per cent of adults in the UK.
•To gauge the success of a training scheme in Sri Lanka, pre-and post-training surveys revealed an almost universal improvement in the understanding of health and nutrition principles.