A Stitch-in Time for the Living Wage

by ShareAction

About the project


Tipping Point £500
Organising and photographing the stitch-ins £3,000
Ongoing costs for the Living Wage campaign £5,000
tipping point
In-kind donations range from drinks to office supplies. We even accept homemade cakes. See what else we need!
tipping point
25 hrs
In-kind donations range from drinks to office supplies. We even accept homemade cakes. See what else we need!

More about the project

What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?

More and more workers have to get by on poverty wages in the UK. Millions don’t earn enough to make ends meet.

This means that people are often forced to work multiple jobs in order to meet their immediate needs - like groceries and energy bills. Working multiple jobs means that many people can’t spend time with their families and in their communities.  Low pay (below the Living Wage) is bad for people’s health and happiness as well as society at large.   

1,500 companies across the UK have already signed up to make sure their staff enjoy a Living Wage. But the retail sector is lagging behind. If a much loved company like M&S takes the lead, the rest will follow. We’ve already seen this happen in the banking sector.  

Can you give us some statistics on this problem?

More than 1 in 5 working people in the UK - or 5.28 million - do not earn enough to make ends meet.

28% of those earning below the Living Wage in the UK work in the retail or wholesale sector.

When broken down by job category, there are 760,000 people working as sales & retail assistants below the Living Wage. This is the highest number of people earning below the Living Wage for any field of work. 

What is your solution?

Signing up as a Living Wage employer with the Living Wage Foundation ensures that every member of staff - from cleaners to cashiers - earn enough to meet their basic needs. More than 1,500 companies in the UK have signed up so far, but no major high street retailer.

By convincing M&S to adopt the Living Wage, more than 80,000 workers will feel the difference and it will create a major breakthrough in the all-important retail sector. Once a leading company like M&S signs up, their competitors will be under pressure to follow suit to keep up, as we’ve already seen in the banking sector. 

How will you deliver this?

We’ll demonstrate the deep concern of M&S customers about the fairness of the Living Wage by organising “craftivists” to stitch personalised handkerchiefs for the board members of M&S, as well as celebrity endorsers of the company and some of its very largest shareholders. This is a powerful but non-threatening way to make the people with the power to make this happen feel how much this means to the public.  

The board meets its shareholders on 7th July at the M&S annual shareholder meeting. We’ll be there to give them their beautiful, personalised hankies along with research on the business benefits of the Living Wage. 

ShareAction’s “AGM Army” has been buying a few shares in M&S. This means that we have the right to attend the meeting and make sure the board listens to our message on the Living Wage. We’ll ask the board for their response to this issue and give them their gifts.

Along the way, we’ll be reaching out to press and allies to make sure this idea gets the broadest reach possible. Your support is vital for making all this happen. 

Get involved

Here are some great ways to get involved with the project and help out. If you have...
  • 2 minutes
    Share this buzzbnk project on Facebook and Twitter
  • 5 minutes
    Complete the survey on why an M&S Living Wage matters to you at: http://action.shareaction.org/page/s/living-wage
  • 15 minutes
    Email us your thoughts on why Marks & Spencer should pay the Living Wage: info@shareaction.org.
  • 30 minutes
    Join a stitch-in at one of their stores! Contact Sarah@craftivist-collective.com for details.
  • A few hours
    Come join us at the M&S AGM on 7th July at Wembley Stadium. We’ll be there from 9:30am to speak with shareholders on the way in.
  • Regular time commitment
    Join the AGM Army to go to more AGMs about issues you care about. Contact liz.sowden@shareaction.org.

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About the organisation

Vision and mission

ShareAction is a registered charity that is leading a movement for Responsible Investment in the UK. We believe in fair pay and in big shareholders supporting companies to be Living Wage employers. The Living Wage is a crucial way to achieve fairness and address poverty in the UK. We want to see all of Britain’s leading companies (the FTSE 100 companies) sign up to ensure their staff earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Geographical coverage

Within UK

Our track record

We launched our shareholder campaign for the Living Wage campaign in 2011, targeting the 100 largest publically listed companies in the UK. Since then, we’ve made great headway as 23 of the 100 have become accredited Living Wage employers. Many more have taken real steps along the way. We’re working very closely with the Living Wage Foundation who provide accreditation to employers. We also work closely with Citizens UK who invented the Living Wage Campaign over 15 years ago.

Who do we help?

This “craftivist” campaign at M&S helps address the deep-seated problem of low pay. The benefits of the Living Wage are felt first by low paid workers themselves but spread out far beyond. The businesses that adopt the Living Wage also see long-term benefits in staff morale, customer loyalty, turnover, absenteeism, recruitment, staff retention and incidental training costs. The Living Wage also reduces costs to the tax payer in propping up firms who pay low wages. Overall, everyone’s a winner, which is why we hope to get a breakthrough in the UK’s retail sector.

How do we deliver this?

We use shareholder activism to make sure the problem of low pay is heard directly at the top level of companies. We’ve involved shareholders of all sizes, including some of the biggest investment funds in the UK right down to people who just own a single share. Investors (people and organisations holding shares in a company) are in a great position to encourage companies to adopt the Living Wage. For companies that need more convincing, such as M&S, we link up with grassroots groups like the Craftivist Collective and 38 Degrees to do creative actions which ensure the issue is heard in multiple ways.

Awards And Recognitions

In 2012, we were named as one of the Observer’s Brand New Radicals and we’ve been highly commended in the Charity Awards three times: for our work on tar sands (2010); Living Wages (2012), and for our AGM Army (2015).