M&S pioneers Neighbourly non-food redistribution scheme

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced it will become social platform Neighbourly's first retail partner to extend its food redistribution scheme to include non-food product donations.

Surplus everyday items such as cleaning and laundry products, toiletries and pet food will be donated at M&S stores to selected food charities and community groups. The decision was taken after 92% of Neighbourly’s food charity partners said they would like to receive non-food donations.

“In addition to our regular surplus food donations, the donation of non-food items forms part of our overall Plan A 2025 aim to become a zero-waste business by 2025,” commented M&S head of responsible sourcing Louise Nicholls.

“Being able to maximise the reuse of non-food products is not only good for our business, but it is also good for the environment and for local communities by enabling them to focus their funds on their core activities.”

‘Exciting step forward’

M&S confirmed it will also roll-out chilled food donations across stores nationwide after a successful pilot which began in May saw 130 M&S stores redistribute items such as meat, dairy products and ready meals. Overall surplus food donations have increased by 11% since then, according to M&S, which has now donated 1.6 million meals since its partnership with Neighbourly began.

M&S was the first food retailer to sign up to Neighbourly’s food redistribution scheme in 2015. Since then, the scheme has gained support from the likes of Dutch brewer Heineken and German discount chain Lidl, the latter aiming for all of its British stores to collectively donate the equivalent of two million meals a year to charities

Commenting on the latest news, Neighbourly founder Nick Davies said: “Extending the Neighbourly platform from food to non-food is a huge and exciting step forward, not just for us, but for the charities we support, the retailers we work with and the communities in which they operate.

“The ability to redistribute unwanted but still useful surplus items will contribute to the reduction of raw material consumption, landfill use and CO2 levels, and of course is extremely beneficial to the work of charities and community groups.”

Plan A 2025

The latest commitment from M&S will help the retailer in its goal to ensure that every piece of food unsold in its stores at the end of the day goes to human consumption by 2025. This forms part of the company’s overall aim to become a zero-waste business by the same date. 

These objectives were outlined in June as features of the new Plan A 2025 sustainability programme, which includes flagship goals to make all M&S packaging “widely recyclable” by 2022, and reduce operational emissions by 80% compared to 2007 as part of M&S’s approved science-based target.

George Ogleby

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