The UK Government has launched a new programme to help retailers including Marks & Spencer, Primark, Monsoon and VF Corporation to strengthen their global supply chains by supporting workers in developing countries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The aid fund – made up of GBP4.85m UK aid and GBP2m from businesses, will focus primarily on supply chains and workers in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana – countries that provide huge proportions of the world’s food, flowers and clothes. It is estimated that nearly 120,000 people working in the global garment industry will benefit.
Announced by the Department for International Development (DFID) today (14 August), the new Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility is designed to help to ensure the steady supply of products to the UK high street.
UK businesses will be partnered with expert organisations such as CARE UK, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) to improve working conditions and support greater access to healthcare and health information for workers in these countries, which are among the world’s poorest.
The idea is that this will help make workplaces safer, meaning employees can return to work and supply chains can keep moving and become more resilient.
Marks & Spencer and CARE will work together to improve health services for 80,000 factory workers in Bangladesh who keep M&S stores stocked with clothes. The programme will strengthen community healthcare systems and deliver targeted health messaging in factories to help employees keep themselves and their families safe. This is expected to have knock-on benefits for a further 300,000 people in Bangladesh’s poorest communities.
“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,” says Fiona Sadler, head of ethical trading for M&S.
A Primark spokesperson told just-style: “The initiative complements our ongoing work with partners such as the Ethical Trading Initiative and Impactt to protect and support workers in our supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, and will also strengthen existing collaborations between brands, NGOs and trade bodies to effect wider positive change across global supply chains.”
Other partners working with the fund include supermarket retailers Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco.