£100 billion investor collaborative ups pressure on real Living Wage at Marks & Spencer
An institutional investor collaborative with over £100 billion assets under management, coordinated by ShareAction, has requested that Marks & Spencer accredits as a Living Wage employer because of the significant benefits for investment portfolios, companies, and workers’ livelihoods.
Strathclyde Pension Fund and large City investors have written to the luxury retailer’s CEO, Steve Rowe, ahead of M&S’s AGM today to ask him to take the final step to accreditation after commendable progress made by the company on pay over the past year. In 2016, they raised base wages for all staff. All 15 signatories to the letter say they want to invest in socially sustainable companies which focus on long-term success and they view the real Living Wage as an important indicator of this approach.
Richard Keery, Investment Manager at Strathclyde Pension Fund which manages over £19bn said: “There is a clear business and moral case for a FTSE 100 company such as Marks & Spencer to pay a Living Wage. For investors such as ourselves, accreditation with the Living Wage Foundation sends a clear signal that a company values its employees and is focussing on the long-term success of the business through investment in staff. We would be very encouraged indeed to see M&S progress towards Living Wage accreditation.”
Cardiff Business School has demonstrated that 93 per cent of 800 companies surveyed reported business benefits from paying the Living Wage, including 86 per cent which found it enhanced the organisation’s reputation as an employer, and 64 percent which found it differentiated the organisation from others in the same industry.
In addition to this, dozens of Craftivists have sent personalised, hand-made cards to Rowe, the board and celebrity M&S models as tokens of encouragement for M&S to pay a Living Wage, and to express their gratitude for the progress that Rowe and his board have made. Having signed a Care2 petition, nearly 100,000 members of the public are also putting their voice behind this request.
The final step to accreditation means M&S would commit to raising their hourly rate in line with the real cost of living year on year. Understanding the challenges this poses, both investors and activists believe that as a marker of responsible business, the real Living Wage is strongly aligned with M&S’s iconic ethos and values.
Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction, said: “A unique blend of shareholder engagement and craftivism has created powerful momentum around the call for M&S to become a Living Wage employer. In sector after sector, the business benefits of paying the Living Wage have become clear to see. By committing to the real Living Wage, M&S would play a transformational role in shaping the landscape of pay in UK retail. 2017 is the right year for M&S to take a visible lead.”
In their sustainability strategy, Plan A 2025, M&S say they will take a lead on tackling issues such as in-work poverty by “aiming to pay a Living Wage for all our direct employees and champion the payment of a living wage in supply chains”.
One current M&S employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “Being paid less than the Living Wage definitely impacts my life. M&S pay is just about sufficient during normal circumstances. However, if there is unexpected expenditure, the only way I can make ends meet is to ask for additional hours but I am already tired from working my basic hours. This constant worry could be avoided if I was being paid the Living Wage, which is calculated to keep pace with inflation.”
ShareAction recently announced that investors with $8 trillion AUM have requested better disclosure of workforce issues at FTSE companies, including M&S, ultimately to create better jobs. Fair pay is taken into account in this process.