It's not just M&S, it's CO2-free M&S

8th June 2012


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Marks & Spencer (M&S) has become the UK's first major retailer to become carbon neutral and zero waste, five years after launching its Plan A initiative

In its latest Plan A progress report, M&S reveals that it met another 43 of its sustainability goals in the last 12 months, including certifying all stores, offices, warehouses and delivery fleets in the UK and Ireland as carbon neutral and recycling 100% of its waste.

Alongside investing in carbon offsets, the retailer confirms it increased the energy efficiency of its operations by a further 4% on last year’s figures and cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by an additional 68,000 tonnes through reduced electricity use, cutting gas leaks from refrigeration units and improving fuel efficiency.

Since launching Plan A in 2006/7, the firm has been able to raise energy efficiency by 28% and cut its carbon footprint by 22%, while increasing its sales space by 18%. Its initiatives have also generated net financial benefits of £185 million over the last five years, according to the report.

“These financial benefits as well as the social and environmental progress we have achieved so far are based on the strides made in integrating sustainability into how we run our business,” confirmed M&S chief executive Marc Bolland.

“I am proud of what we've achieved. We now have a better, greener and more ethical Marks & Spencer. Plan A is an essential part of our DNA.”

The retailer has now met 138 of its 180 commitments under Plan A, which include ensuring all its products are sustainably sourced by 2015, having all new stores and warehouses achieve an “excellent” BREEAM rating and using the most environmentally efficient forms of packaging systems throughout its supply chain.

As well as achieving carbon neutrality and zero waste to landfill by its 2012 targets, the retailer also introduced a system to monitor the sustainability performance of new stores, completed large-scale trials of low-carbon transport for its fleets and installed renewable energy technologies at a five of its outlets.

To meet its 100% recycling target M&S installed recycling centres at all its sites, created a employee training programme and worked with suppliers to reuse waste in new products. For example, plastic waste is used to make carrier bags and cardboard to make food waste boxes.

2012 also saw the retailer launch its “Shwopping” campaign, which asks customers to bring in old clothes for recycling when they buy new clothes, in a bid to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns.

The annual progress report also reveals that M&S has failed to meet six of its commitments, including only cutting water usage by 18%, against its target of 20%; it has now set a new 25% reduction target to be met by 2015.

Difficulties with the availability of sustainable supplies of wood and cotton, meant that the firm missed goals to source all of the wood it uses from certified sustainable sources by 2012 (achieving 84%), and its aim to manufacture 20 million garments from Fairtrade Cotton. Despite these setbacks M&S reiterates its commitment to sourcing 100% of its wood sustainably, although it does not set a date by which it will achieved this.

In the report, M&S confirms that it has decided to abandon its commitment to use biodiesel for the time being over concerns of the sustainability of biofuel crops. “Whilst we still believe that biodiesel may play an important role in the future we’ve been advised that these newer fuels are still several years away from becoming commercially available,” it states.


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