Marks and Spencer raises its Plan A aspirations

9th June 2014

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  • Retail and wholesale ,
  • Stewardship ,
  • Products ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Supply chain


Eugene Day

M&S has revamped its Plan A sustainable business plan, strengthening the retailer's 2015 eco and ethical commitments, and setting out 100 new and revised social and environmental commitments, which the company aims to complete by 2020. Sustainability principles are incorporated in the company's international operations for the first time.

Plan A 2020 builds on the highly acclaimed 2007 Plan A, which set out more than 100 social and environmental commitments across all M&S operations in the UK. In the first five years of the plan, the company reduced carbon emissions by 23% and water consumption by 28%, and improved energy efficiency by 31%. Waste reduction and recycling programmes helped the company achieve zero waste to landfill and use two billion fewer single-use carrier bags in its food halls.

Earlier this year, M&S became the first UK retailer to receive the triple award of certification from the Carbon Trust for achievements in carbon, water and waste reduction.

Around 57% of M&S products now incorporate at least one Plan A social or environmental attribute as a minimum, already surpassing the 50% target set for 2015. But the company now wants to go beyond its UK operational improvements and extend Plan A to its international business over the next six years. The company also intends to engage more fully in its social commitments through staff volunteering schemes. Its youth employment programme, “Make your mark”, has also been expanded and charity giving has been increased. The aim for Plan A 2020 is for all M&S products to incorporate one Plan A attribute by 2020.

Marc Bolland, chief executive at M&S, says the company is aiming for significant progress in the next few years “Plan A is at the heart of our plans to become a sustainable, international, multi-channel retailer. It’s become a vital part of how we run our business and represents a better way of working that materially improves our customers’ and partners’ experience of M&S.”

Commitments outlined in Plan A 2020 are divided into four ‘pillars’:

  • Inspiration – supporting local communities and encouraging customers to take part in “eco” activities.
  • In touch – launching a new set of global sourcing principles with a wider remit on human rights and gender equality.
  • Integrity – taking the lead on social, ethical and environmental product sourcing.
  • Innovation – accelerating the company’s circular economy initiatives and improving resource efficiency across the supply chain.

Each of the four pillars incorporate specific social and environmental objectives. Operational objectives include improving energy efficiency in UK stores by 50% per square foot (up from 35% by 2015) by 2020, and in international stores by 20%. There will also be a stronger commitment to small-scale renewables and the company intends to use biomethane to meet half of its gas demand in buildings.

But Plan A 2020 goes beyond operational efficiency and improvement. Mike Barry, director of Plan A, says the shift to new sustainable business models will only be completed with the strong participation of the vast majority of customers, employees and business partners. “Plan A 2020 is a sustainable business plan focused on customer, employee and supplier engagement. We’ve formally included our international operations in Plan A for the first time and put Plan A at the heart of our business principles. By aligning social and environmental outcomes with our business goals in this way, we believe we can deliver greater value for all and achieve our goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer,” said Barry.


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