More than three quarters (77 per cent) of the cotton sourced for M&S products is now grown using more sustainable methods – meaning M&S cotton is helping farmers use fewer pesticides, less water and make more profit.
It makes M&S one of the biggest users of more sustainably sourced cotton and puts it on track to meet its commitment to hit 100 per cent next year.
The figure is published for the first time today as part of M&S’ 2018 Plan A report, it’s annual progress report against 100 commitments to improve people, planet and health. Other highlights include £25.7 million donated or raised for community programmes, 83 per cent of M&S products now have an eco or ethical quality above the market norm, 30 million items of clothing reused or recycled with Oxfam and 2.3 million meals donated to food surplus charities with social network Neighbourly.
Mike Barry, Director of Plan A and Sustainable Business at M&S, said: “Across our business we’re delivering better value for our customers, cutting prices and improving our products. Plan A plays a vital role in this transformation as Better Cotton equals better value because our customers care about where products come from and how they are produced. That’s why customers are at the heart of Plan A and why we’re helping to democratise sustainability by placing an eco or ethical quality into every product.”
Cotton is the most widely used natural fibre in the world, used by nearly every single person on the planet daily. 23 million tonnes are produced every year5 and 250 million people around the world rely on it for income. M&S uses around 50,000 tonnes of cotton a year. Unless it is grown sustainably, growers can use too much water in areas that are often short of water. They can also misuse pesticides and it can be hard for farmers to make enough money.
Most M&S cotton is sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). BCI uses a ‘mass balance approach’ which means that when retailers and brands like M&S source Better Cotton, BCI Farmers see the benefit for the cotton they produce. However, the cotton in the finished product may not be Better Cotton as it is mixed with standard cotton when farmers sell it on to suppliers to make finished products. The remainder of M&S cotton is either Fairtrade, Organic or recycled.
Lena Staafgard, Chief Operating Officer at BCI, said: “Since joining BCI as a Pioneer Member in 2009, Marks & Spencer has been committed to making more sustainable cotton, at scale, a reality. Their commitment is not only demonstrated in the increasing volumes of cotton they source as Better Cotton, but also in the time, energy and strategic input they invest in BCI’s growth, across the various advisory capacities in which they have participated. Critically, over the years, Marks & Spencer has invested funds that directly benefit smallholder farmers through their Membership of the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund.”
In 2009 M&S began working with WWF supporting farmers in the Warangal and Karimnagar districts in India to develop ways of producing cotton that care for the environment and respect the rights and wellbeing of workers. In the 2010 cotton season, the project produced its first harvest of Better Cotton.