Why Marshalls is expanding its business and human rights work in 2022

Elaine Mitchel-Hill, Business and Human Rights Lead at Marshalls plc
Wednesday 26th January, 2022

Marshalls has been proactively working to improve human rights in global supply chains for almost two decades. This year, we are pushing forward to invest more in this and recruiting additional specialists to help us to do more. In this article, Elaine Mitchel-Hill, our Business and Human Rights Director, talks about why now is the right time to do this, and what it’s like to work for Marshalls in this space.

But beyond the apparent impact of the past two years, there are many more reasons why we must sharpen our focus. An increased movement of people, both legally and illegally, with consent and without, means that the world is facing more instances of human trafficking and bonded, forced and child labour. The challenges are vast, set against a backdrop of political instability, socio-economic inequality, and the rapid growth of new technologies. The increased focus on human rights legislation presents us with timely opportunities to go further than ever before.

My experience of working for Marshalls in a human rights role

Alongside all of this, and the information you’ll find in our Modern Slavery library, I wanted to share my personal experience of working with Marshalls since 2005 – firstly as an external consultant for ten years and latterly employed directly – and why I remain totally committed. Marshalls has never wavered or turned away from seeking to understand its human rights impact and its potential for positive change and leverage. We’ve worked hard to understand any unintended consequences and have driven the agenda on critical issues.

Marshalls has always fully supported and encouraged the exploration of what business and human rights means for our business and the sector as a whole. Every facet of the business has strained to understand its impact, what action it can take, and how it can do the right thing, do it better and act with humanity. I’m not going to pretend that it’s been plain sailing by any measure often there has been what I’d call ‘a healthy tension’. But ultimately, after discussion and a short period of reflection, we have always come together, leaned into the challenge, figured out what needs to be done, rolled our sleeves up, dug in and pushed forward – sometimes gaining just an inch and sometimes a mile. And that’s OK because change comes slowly, slowly and then often all at once.

Where is Marshalls taking its human rights work?

I realise as I write this that we’ve matured in our approach during our journey since 2005. Marshalls has a clear business and human rights roadmap to 2030. Importantly it’s backed by the board, championed by our CEO, fully supported by the executive team, and has the active engagement of many others in our business.

We also have an eye set on the horizon of 2040 and beyond. The strategic dialogue within our business is alive to the sustainability drivers which impact the way we operate and our surrounding world. Our purpose, to create better net positive futures, means that we’re aiming beyond net zero, and in doing this, we need to consider plausible futures. Our ability to toggle between the here and now and the future is in itself an art. The level of internal engagement provides much-needed fuel for our human rights journey.

This is, without doubt, an incredibly exciting time for us to be expanding our work, offering us the opportunity to make a significant impact way beyond Marshalls own business.

Opportunities to join Marshalls as a human rights specialist

I heard a saying recently which struck a chord, ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’. We want to go far. It’s time to strikeout. We’re currently looking for a Business and Human Rights Manager, the first of a number of new roles this year. If you’re a specialist in this space; courageous, consistent, persistent and willing to do what it takes, please read about the role and tell me what I need to know.

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