Marks & Spencer has been collaborating with competitors as part of efforts to implement a living wage in factories that supply its stores.

Speaking at the UK retailer's Plan A stakeholders' conference in London yesterday (19 June), its director of general merchandising technology and sourcing, Krishan Hundal, said that because M&S very rarely has 100% of a factory's capacity, the implementation of a living wage has to be done in collaboration with others.

He said that M&S has shared its living wage findings with its competitors around the world, because "we recognise this is something we are really serious about".

Hundal emphasised there is "some recognition from other retailers that they want to drive in this direction", but until now many have been put off by the "enormity" of the challenge of creating a methodology to develop a living wage.

Fiona Sadler, the retailer's head of ethical trading in fashion, added that there is no internationally recognised living wage.

The UK's largest clothing retailer has now developed a equation for living wages, which it has begun to implement in its Bangladesh factories.

Part of this has led to it creating a buying cost model that includes the percentage of labour costs, an element most people leave out, Sadler says.

It has then worked to encourage its suppliers to pay higher wages, by emphasising improved productivity, better efficiencies and the more streamlined HR management processes they would see through the move.

As a result of these efforts, Sadler said that in 2008, 100% of its factories were paying the minimum wage, while 30% were paying twice the minimum wage. By 2012, some 40% of factories are paying four times the 2008 legal minimum wage, or double today's minimum wage.

In order to upscale its living wage programme, and ensure it is sustainable, Sadler wants other key stakeholders to become involved, including other suppliers, brands, NGOs and governments.

"It's less about what that figure is, but more about everyone adopting the same methodology," she emphasised.