- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The UK government has announced a new programme to help high street businesses, including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Primark to strengthen their global supply chains by supporting workers in developing countries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The aim of the scheme, which includes investment from UK businesses, is to keep vulnerable workers in their supply chains in safe and secure employment, as well as to help keep some of the UK’s favourite products on high street shelves.
The UK aid fund will partner UK businesses including Morrisons, Tesco, Monsoon, VF Corporation, and Waitrose with expert organisations such as CARE UK, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Ethical Trading Initiative to improve working conditions and support greater access to healthcare and health information for workers in some of the world’s poorest countries.
This the UK government stated will help make “workplaces safer, meaning employees can return to work and supply chains can keep moving and become more resilient”.
The new funding was announced by international development secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and will be made up of 4.85 million pounds of UK aid and 2 million pounds from businesses, and 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 clothes, food and flowers.
Department for International Development launches new funding to support supply chains for British businesses
Marks and Spencer will work together with CARE to improve health services for 80,000 factory workers in Bangladesh who keep its stores stocked with clothes. The programme will aim to strengthen community health care 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, added the government.
"We want to ensure people in Britain can continue to buy affordable, high quality goods from around the world,” explained Trevelyan in a statement. “This new fund will strengthen vital supply chains for UK consumers, while supporting some of the most vulnerable workers in developing countries. It will make a real difference to people in the UK and abroad.”
Fiona Sadler, head of ethical trading for Marks and Spencer added: “At Marks and Spencer 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.
“We’re proud to be partnering again with DFID and CARE to strengthen healthcare systems and services in our factories in Bangladesh and the wider community.”
Primark, Marks and Spencer and Tesco among retailers joining government plans to support supply chains
The new facility will fund programmes to improve coronavirus preparedness in workplaces, help farmers diversify the crops they produce to meet demand, and provide support so farms and factories can put processes in place to keep production going and make sure help is getting to the most vulnerable workers.
As part of the scheme, the Ethical Trading Initiative will improve workplace health and safety for vegetable, coffee and flower suppliers to UK brands such as Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Waitrose and Tesco. It is estimated that 10,000 workers in African countries, mainly women, will benefit from safer working environments.
Overall, more than 200,000 workers in agriculture and nearly 120,000 garment workers are expected to benefit from the funding, and the improvements to these people’s working lives will indirectly benefit a further 650,000 people, including workers’ families and children, taking the total number of people in developing countries helped by the scheme to nearly 1 million (970,000).
Laura Hawkesford, head of private sector for CARE UK said: “Businesses have an important role to play to ensure people within their operations and values chains are safe, treated with dignity and can prosper. Coronavirus poses a critical threat to Bangladesh garment workers, with hundreds of thousands of people in dense areas at risk.
“We are excited to continue to work with Marks and Spencer in partnership with DFID to ensure workers and communities have access to relevant information, facilities and services to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”
Other partners working with the fund include Arco, Dimensions, Impactt, GoodWeave International, Awaj Foundation, FNET, MM Flowers, Women Working Worldwide, Coventry University, Flamingo, Minor, Weir and Willis, Union Roasted and Mondelez International.
Image: from Pexels