Marks & Spencer Doubles Down on Sustainability



Marks & Spencer (M&S) has been a mover and shaker in retail since setting its first “Plan A” sustainability goals ten years ago, focused on supply chain sustainability, recycling and human rights.

As announced on June 1st, the British retailer’s new plan, “Plan A 2025”, builds on its first decade of sustainability and adds 100 new targets to be reached including:

  • A 100% zero-waste business model across supply chains and products
  • A 100% zero-waste business model across supply chains and products
  • All M&S packaging “widely recyclable” by 2022
  • Cutting food waste in half
  • Ensuring 50% of food sales come from healthier products by 2022
  • Rewarding and incentivizing consumers for making healthier choices by 2019
  • Ensuring all key raw materials come from sustainable sources by 2025
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain by 13.3m tons by 2030.

CEO Steve Rowe said: “We believe we can engage all of our 32 million customers, 85,000 colleagues and 200,000 shareholders in the plan that becomes a mass voice for sustainable change.”

Chair of the Plan A advisory board Jonathon Porritt added: “It’s so important that M&S, one of the world’s most trusted and well-loved companies, keeps raising the bar on what it means to be a sustainable retailer. On all the big challenges–supply chain, climate, food waste, living wage, human rights, packaging, community investment and so on–the pressure is intensifying and expectations rising. It’s great to see M&S leading the way here.”

The venerable UK chain now operates nearly 1,000 locations across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and as Triple Pundit notes, “For M&S, the evolution of its sustainability plan is not just about social and environmental sustainability.”

“As is the case with much of the world’s retail sector, this is also about remaining sustainable economically. If M&S cannot thrive financially, then neither can many of the workers within the farthest reaches its supply chain or the citizens who live in close proximity to its 950+ locations across the UK.”

Addressing that realization, Rowe said, “Plan A 2025 will help us build a sustainable future by helping our customers live healthier lives, supporting the communities they live in as we source from and look after the planet we all share.”

To that end, M&S has pledged to transform 1,000 communities starting with ten that are adjacent to their existing store locations, building on its “Healthy High Street” program—a collaboration between town councils, peers, and community organizations.

M&S’s Schwopping program, launched in 2012 in partnership with Oxfam, encourages consumers to drop unwanted clothes at company stores.

On the energy front, M&S has saved over GBP £750 million in costs by using less energy, reducing transport miles, and reducing packaging since launch of Plan A. M&S Energy offers community groups access to sites for renewable energy generation, and each of its own factories will be targeting environmental and ethical improvements en route to becoming a zero-waste business.

Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S said, “The first 10 years of Plan A have given us the confidence to embrace a sustainable future.”

“Plan A 2025 is now our plan for a future in which a truly sustainable M&S can, in partnership with our customers and stakeholders, have a positive impact in all we do. It will force us to address questions for which we don’t have all the answers to yet and collaborate with others to drive true change across consumer goods industries.”

Plan A 2025 will be backed by a marketing campaign that includes M&S’s first ever Plan A store take-over with every single M&S window featuring a Plan A message and M&S’ 70 biggest stores hosting a welcome zone that details what the store is doing to support its local community.
It is part of M&S’ new Spend It Well brand campaign and includes radio support as well as a digital push which includes a new Plan A hub at and promoted content on social media.

M&S will report on Plan A 2025 progress every June, and the commitments will be overseen by independent auditors and M&S’s own audit team.

Sustainability across an entire industry’s eco-system is now mainstreamed enough to emerge as the elixir for brands to maintain a profitable business going forward, while not damaging the social environment or the planet. Amen!