M&S’s Mike Barry to step down as director of sustainable business

Barry has just 27 days left in his current role before he takes a break. Image: World Economic Forum (WEF)

Posting on LinkedIn this afternoon (3 June), Barry confirmed that he will leave his current post on 30 June, after more than 14 consecutive years working in M&S’s sustainability team.

He first joined the department in 2005 as the retailer’s head of sustainable business and has played an instrumental role in the development and implementation of its famed ‘Plan A’ sustainability strategy.

The 180-point plan, launched in 2007, was developed with an overarching aim of making M&S the “most sustainable retailer in the UK”, setting out ambitious targets around carbon, waste and resources, water, human rights and community engagement.

Since the plan was first implemented, M&S has achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status, switched to 100% renewable electricity and achieved carbon neutrality across its UK-wide estate of stores, offices and warehouses. It has also launched a string of digital maps enabling consumers and other stakeholders to track its beef, wool and seafood products across global supply chains.

Barry has additionally overseen M&S’s drive to reduce plastics, co-creating the company’s 2022 ambition to ensure that all plastic packaging that could end up with customers will be “widely recycled”. The company planning to develop one recyclable plastic polymer for use across all of its plastic packaging as it strives to meet this aim, has installed a string of in-store take-back facilities for hard-to-recycle materials and has been phasing out single-use plastic items like carrier bags, clothing sleeves and cutlery.

Posting about his decision to step down on LinkedIn, Barry wrote: “I’ve had a brilliant blast at M&S; 4,000 working days, not a single one of which was the same as the last.

“[It’s been] a huge honour to work for a great business with amazing people and, most importantly, to have a world-class successor. Now exited to plan the next decade-long dash through the 2020s to build a truly sustainable future.”

Barry will be succeeded by Carmel McQuaid, M&S’s current head of sustainable business, who has worked for the retailer for more than 11 years and also has sustainability experience in the manufacturing, supply chain, aerospace and consumer goods sectors.

“We’d like to thank Mike for his drive and leadership of our sustainability journey over the last decade and for the significant contribution he’s made to the wider industry,” M&S said in a statement. “We’re delighted that Carmel McQuaid will now continue this work with a focus on how we integrate sustainability into each area of M&S as we build a family of accountable businesses.”

Barry has not yet confirmed what role he will take on next, but said he will be taking the summer off before announcing his new venture.

Mike Barry’s five steps to going from good to GREAT sustainability leadership

Those interested in utilising Barry’s enviable depth of knowledge for their own organisation are encouraged to read this article, in which he lays out his five key steps that all sustainability professionals should embrace to become “great leaders”. The piece rounds up the key topics he discussed at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum 2019, which was held in London this February. 

Sarah George

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