M&S moves from risk to resilience with positive Plan A progress

Another year of strong progress on its Plan A sustainability programme has seen Marks & Spencer (M&S) achieve almost half of its social and environmental commitments ahead of schedule, with just a handful missed or delivered late.

The 2015 Plan A Report, released today (4 June), provides a one-year update on all 100 of M&S’s 2020 sustainability targets and outlines the key focus areas and challenges for the year ahead. (Scroll down to read full report). 

“Plan A 2020 is delivering a better M&S,” said Plan A director Mike Barry. “It is equipping us for the future and helping us deliver exceptional products and services for our customers.

“The report shows that we have much to be proud of, but it also shows how long our ‘to do’ list is if we’re to become a truly sustainable business. In the next 12 months we’ll step up our efforts on circular economy activities, roll out a more localised Plan A and become a more transparent business.”


High on the list of M&S’s Plan A achievements is the successful maintenance of carbon neutrality for M&S-operated activities in the UK – making it still the only major retailer in the world to have carbon-neutral operations.

Other environmental achievements from the past year include improving energy efficiency in UK and Republic of Ireland stores, offices and distribution centres by 35% per sq.ft by 2015; and recycling  100% of the waste generated across the business. The company also remains on track to have at least one Plan A quality in all M&S products by 2020, with 64% of M&S products now having at least one social or environmental quality – 7% more than last year.

Positive progress was also made in the area of technology upgrades – with  energy efficient LED lighting fitted in 417 stores – and in the M&S supply chain, with almost a third (32%) of the cotton used to make M&S products now coming from more sustainable sources – up from 20% last year.

Circular thinking

On food waste, M&S says more than 65% of potential food waste is now avoided through price reductions on short-life products and donations of surplus food to charities. The retailer has also now set itself a new target to reduce food waste by 20% per sq.ft of store space by 2020, against a 2014 baseline.

The Plan A update also indicates that M&S is planning to place a lot more focus on the circular economy over the next few years. After successfully completing a detailed review of circular economy opportunities across all parts of the business, M&S stated: “We also believe that there are additional opportunities to support new business models in the way that some store equipment and services are procured.”

As such, the company says it will be scaling up closed-loop projects such as the ‘Shwopping’ clothes recycling scheme, which now has a revised target to recycle a total of 50 million garments by 2020, from a 2008 baseline.

M&S Plan A: In numbers

Sustainability leader

Writing in a blog post today, M&S’s Plan A sustainability team – which consists of Barry, Carmel McQuaid and Adam Elman – admitted the retailer is “still nearer the start line than the finish” and that the pressures such as planetary limits and social change “are only growing”.

“We make no apologies for setting a goal to be the best in 2010,” the blog reads. “It’s galvanised us to stretch ourselves to change, to be the best we can and inspired others to take up the challenge too. The sustainability challenge demands a bold response and so we won’t rest until we’re a truly sustainable business and a leader amongst others in engaging customers.”

M&S Plan A Report – 2015

Luke Nicholls

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