Plan A nets M&S £135 million

12th June 2013


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Marks & Spencer's pioneering sustainability strategy generated a record £135 million in business benefits last year while continuing to drive down carbon emissions

In its sixth annual report on progress against its 180 sustainability targets, the retailer confirms that resource efficiencies and new business created as a result of Plan A initiatives resulted in a net benefit of £135 million during 2012/13, £30 million more than the previous year.

After meeting its headline targets of being carbon neutral and zero-waste to landfill in 2011/2012, M&S reveals it has been able to continue to cut emissions and reduce the amount of waste it produces.

During 2012/13 M&S’s carbon footprint was 23% smaller than in 2006/7 (up from 22% last year), a saving of 160,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, and the energy efficiency of its operations increased to 31% per square foot (up from 28% in 2011/12).

M&S says the savings have come from gradual improvements, such as the installation of energy-efficient lighting schemes in 200 of its stores and improving the maintenance of its fridges and freezers – which has resulted in a 60% reduction in CO2 from refrigeration since 2007.

Last year, M&S acknowledged that it had missed its 2012 target to cut water use, but the retailer now reports that it has surpassed its original goal. M&S had aimed to reduce water consumption by 20% per square foot against a 2006/7 baseline.

Water use across its operations in 2012/13 was 27% below the baseline level, reports M&S. Fixing 74 leaks at its stores, fitting water-efficient taps and urinals, and installing automatic meter readers at a number of sites helped to reduce water consumption.

M&S has also increased the number of its products with a “Plan A quality” – being Fairtrade, carbon neutral or sustainably sourced, for example – to 45%, 14% more than last year. During 2012/13, M&S sold more than one billion Plan A products.

The firm confirms it was able to increase the amount of sustainably-sourced cotton it uses to produce its clothes from 3.8% in 2011/12 to 11% in 2012/13, but it remains some way from its 2015 target of 25%.

Despite already meeting 139 of its 180 Plan A targets, with a further 31 described as “on track”, the firm’s CEO Marc Bolland admits more needs to be done.

“Plan A has made our business more sustainable and more engaging for our customers and employees. But we must continue to adapt and step up to the challenge of the world’s climatic and demographic changes,” he said.

“Growing global consumption will continue to put pressure on finite resources, extreme weather is becoming a reality. We have moved closer to our vision of M&S as a sustainable international multi-channel retailer, but we know that we still have a long way to go to make this a reality. Through Plan A we will continue to push the business case for social and environmental responsibility, develop new alliances and learn from others.”

The progress report also confirms that M&S will be publishing a revised Plan A by the end of 2013. Richard Gillies, director of Plan A, said: “If the first six years of Plan A have taught us anything, it’s that we have much more to do to become a truly sustainable business – and over the past 12 months we’ve done some hard thinking about what ‘much more to do’ really involves.”

According to the report, M&S staff want the firm to prioritise waste reduction, while its Sustainable Retail Advisory Board has advised the retailer to do more to engage its customers with Plan A and to help the retail sector as a whole improve its sustainability efforts. The firm’s suppliers are also asking for assistance in improving their environmental impacts and sourcing raw materials more sustainably.

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