Marks & Spencer outlines challenges for Plan A global scale-up

Marks & Spencer has announced it is extending its Plan A commitments to 2020 in a bid to scale up sustainability across its international operations.

Updated targets include an increase in energy efficiency from 35% to 50% per sq ft and a 35% reduction in water usage in M&S stores and offices

Updated targets include an increase in energy efficiency from 35% to 50% per sq ft and a 35% reduction in water usage in M&S stores and offices

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Unveiled as Plan A 2020, the document highlights achievements so far and outlines global plans for the future - these include launching sustainable learning stores overseas, ensuring every M&S international employee receives Plan A training, and setting up a global community programme to increase the scale of the social, environmental and economic benefits of supply chain Plan A projects.

Speaking to edie, M&S global head of Plan A delivery Adam Elman said the move was being driven by the company's increasing retail presence abroad. Applying its UK learning would be an exciting, but challenging opportunity, he added.

"We still have a lot of learning to do, especially in international markets in terms of understanding what is culturally relevant and appropriate," he said. "There are many challenges, not just within the areas of built environment, infrastructure and legislation, but also with local stakeholder engagement."

Elman cited the company's Shwopping initiative as an example, which has seen significant success in the UK, but wouldn't work so well in a country like India where a throwaway textiles culture doesn't exist.

He also pointed to the different ownership structures across the M&S business as a whole - some stores are owned while others are franchised - and that this would present "different levels of ability to make things happen".

Under Plan A 2020, the retailer has set more stretching goals over the next six years. These include increasing energy efficiency targets from 35% to 50% per square foot, a 35% reduction in water usage in M&S stores and offices, ensuring 50% of the energy used in UK and Ireland stores is sourced from small-scale renewable sources by 2020, and reducing UK and Ireland store refrigeration gas emissions by 80%.

M&S also plans to accelerate its circular economy work, which so far has centred mainly around its Shwopping partnership with Oxfam. In addition, 85 of the company's top 100 clothing suppliers now operate from eco factories.

"There are little areas we have been exploring and playing with, and while we haven't set a particular target for [circular economy] we are looking to scale it up," Elman said, revealing that the company was working with the Technology Strategy Board on a garment innovation project.

Over the past year, achievements under Plan A include water-free packaging for flower bouquets, 100% M&S product palm oil certified as sustainable, and 96% of wood-based materials used by M&S in all operations FSC certified, recycled or from sources that protect forests and communities (compared to 88% the previous year).

Plan A was launched back in 2007 as a 100 commitment, five-year plan. The retailer achieved 94 of its original commitments and deleted one due to changes in circumstances. In 2010 Plan A was extended and strengthened with 80 new commitments, with 2015 and 2020 deadlines added to the original 100.

Read the full M&S Plan A Report 2014 below

Maxine Perella


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