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Marks & Spencer Uses Mobile Tech to Poll Over 60,000 Workers in Five Countries

Image Credit: Cisco/Photo by Arjun Kartha

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has scaled up its use of Labor Link mobile technology in the supply chain to poll 64,230 workers across 46 manufacturing locations in 5 countries (China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the UK) — exceeding its target of 22,500 workers in 30 factories by more than double.

Mobile survey data revealed differences in knowledge among workers in areas such as workplace communications. For example, more factory management responded affirmatively to the question “Is there a way workers can submit a written complaint when they have a work related-problem?” than workers did. M&S will use this data to develop training programs on Workplace Communications and align the company’s business practices with worker needs.

Marks & Spencer's
Mike Barry,
SB'14 London

This is the first time these workers have had an anonymous channel to report on sensitive issues like harassment and bullying, working hours, and communication with their supervisors. With more detailed data, M&S is able to go beyond auditing to engage in a new kind of conversation with suppliers.

“With 44 percent of workers choosing to participate voluntarily, we see a higher degree of trust and scalability in anonymous mobile surveys, compared to more traditional methods of connecting with workers through interviews,” said Heather Franzese, executive sirector of the organization behind the Labor Link platform.

Labor Link is flexible enough to reach workers with different technology preferences, and manufacturing almost any product type. In Bangladesh, workers use basic feature phones and can access pre-recorded questions to address low literacy rates. In China, Labor Link is available through a WeChat application for workers with smartphones, giving workers the option to use the technology they prefer.

In related news, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson recently called for the need for annual wage revisions in Bangladesh in line with local price inflation. For several years, the retailer has worked towards establishing a fair living wage in Bangladesh — a key supplier country. H&M sources products from around 300 factories in the country, employing over 600,000 workers. Persson added that further actions are required to ensure the needs of workers, as well as the continued competitiveness of the Bangladeshi textile industry. A continued wage development through annual revisions based on cost price index is a great way to achieve this. H&M is also encouraging the government to address the issue of cost regulation on, such things as rent and basic commodities.

Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,… [Read more about Mike Hower]

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