Marks and Spencer is devising its own fair trade mark to go on selected products from next month as part of a major new corporate social responsibility initiative.
The scheme, currently using the working title ‘Trade for Good’, will initially focus on wild flowers sourced from the Agulhas Plain in South Africa.
Rather than focusing on getting a better deal for farmers on the commodities market, as the Fairtrade Foundation does, Trade for Good will look at the entire business operation of the producers. It will then be expanded across two other categories next year, with all areas of clothing and food being open to the scheme. “We'll
identify how they expand their businesses, how they improve the quality of their products, and send over our own staff to educate them on business skills,” said a spokeswoman. The flowers will start coming into stores from the end of September, promoted through in-store activity, articles in the Your M&S customer magazine and website information. “We’re not ruling out above-the-line promotions,” she added.
Although the next projects are yet to be decided, one supply chain being researched is prawns from Honduras. Other countries where supply chains could benefit include Morocco and India.
Research conducted by M&S in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation earlier this month revealed that 55% of shoppers were more likely to buy Fairtrade products, as a result of increased awareness from recent publicity. That compared with 47% who said they were more likely to donate money and 13% who said they would write to their local MPs.
The survey of 1,000 adults also showed that 83% believed that businesses should improve long-term trade links to benefit African producers, rather than simply donate money to charity.
Since June, M&S has offered Fairtrade-certified bananas, avocados, mangos and pineapples, and begun selling only Fairtrade tea and coffee in its 190 Cafe Revives.
Meanwhile, the launch of Marks and Spencer’s online grocery delivery businesses has been scheduled for next year. Although a precise timeframe had not been given for the service to go live, it had been widely expected to happen this autumn. A spokeswoman said it was “still quite a way off”.
The retailer already sells clothing, homeware, flowers, wine and hampers online.
Rachel Barnes