Marks and Spencer’s Emerging Business Case for Sustainability

Five years into its sustainability efforts, Marks and Spencer has demonstrated “a strong business case for sustainability, with £185m in net benefits from Plan A made available to be reinvested back into our business.”

Reading Time: 2 min 

Topics

Leading Sustainable Organizations

Corporate adoption of sustainable business practices is essential to a strong market environment and an enduring society. What does it mean to become a sustainable business and what steps must leaders take to integrate sustainability into their organization?
See All Articles in This Section
Like what you're reading?
Join our community
Member
Free

5 Free Articles per month, $6.95/article thereafter. Free newsletter.

Subscribe
$89 $44/Year

Unlimited digital content, quaterly magazine, free newsletter, entire archive.

Sign me up

Marks and Spencer has demonstrated “a strong business case for sustainability, with £185m in net benefits” since 1997 available for reinvestment.

Wheelock Place, Singapore. Image courtesy of Flickr user alantankenghoe.

Five years ago, the UK retailer Marks and Spencer announced what it called Plan A, a commitment to tangible steps to make the company more sustainable. T-shirts for associates featured the slogan, “There is no Plan B.”

As it says at the Plan A website today, “We launched Plan A in January 2007, setting out 100 commitments to achieve in 5 years. We’ve now extended Plan A to 180 commitments to achieve by 2015, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer.”

The company’s new 56-page “How We Do Business Report 2012” [PDF] details what the company has achieved in the past five years.

Marks and Spencer has also prepared a separate report called “The key lessons from the Plan A business case.” [PDF]

Of its goals, the company has achieved 138 of its 180 commitments, with 30 ‘on plan’, 6 ‘behind plan’ and 6 ‘not achieved,’ according to the report. Among the report highlights:

Marks and Spencer has a convincing business case for sustainability. The company, says Marc Bolland, CEO, can “demonstrate a strong business case for sustainability, with £185m in net benefits from Plan A made available to be reinvested back into our business over the last five years.” Operational savings include a 28% improvement in energy efficiency per sq ft.

Achievements include becoming carbon neutral, sending no waste to landfill and sourcing 100% of the wild fish it sells “from the most sustainable sources available.”

Customers have embraced a chance to give back. The company launched a so-called ‘shwopping’ initiative (the word combines “shop” with “swap”), encouraging customers to bring in used clothes when they buy new ones, and one-day “Wardrobe Clear-Out” events, with clothes donated to Oxfam second-hand clothing stores. Total number of garments donated: 11 million. Money raised for charity: £20 million.

Sustainability is integrated into financial reporting and review. M&S produced its sustainability report with its Internal Audit team and Ernst & Young. The Board and Audit Committee reviewed Plan A progress every six months.

Read the Full Article

Topics

Leading Sustainable Organizations

Corporate adoption of sustainable business practices is essential to a strong market environment and an enduring society. What does it mean to become a sustainable business and what steps must leaders take to integrate sustainability into their organization?
See All Articles in This Section

More Like This

Add a comment

You must to post a comment.

First time here? Sign up for a free account: Comment on articles and get access to many more articles.

Comments (2)
Dominic Hopgood
Where do you see M&S strategy now.  Are they still moving forward or have they lost their way?
Ersoy Gulecoglu
Thanks for another great article, Leslie. Marks and Spencer has a very focused and systematic approach to defining and achieving its sustainability goals. I think what differentiates them from the crowd is that they truly embrace the value of engaging their value chain including their suppliers, shareholders and customers in the process and focusing on collaboratively and continuously creating materialized benefits for these stakeholders as an outcome. This is the only way to succeed in retail sustainability as the retailer only has limited impact within its own operational boundaries.