M&S has reset its Plan A sustainability programme, with a singular focus on becoming a net zero Scope 3 business across its entire supply chain and products by 2040. The retailer has set out a detailed roadmap to net zero using science-based targets aligned to the UN ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5c. The ambitious target would see M&S achieve full net zero ten years ahead of the government’s UK-wide strategy and will require rapid decarbonisation of its business to cut its carbon footprint by a third by 2025, from a 5.7million tonne 2017 baseline.
The retailer launched Plan A in 2007 and became the first major retailer to reach carbon neutral status in 2012. With the scale of the climate challenge bigger and more urgent than ever before, Steve Rowe, M&S CEO, has written to its global supplier base and hosted a business-wide event to rally its 70,000 colleagues behind plans to put a sustainable future at the heart of its transformation strategy.
Speaking to stakeholders, Steve Rowe commented: “We launched Plan A 14 years ago, because we knew then there was no Plan B for our planet. We now face a climate emergency, and in resetting Plan A with a singular focus we can drive the delivery of net zero across our entire end-to-end supply chain. This won’t be easy. We need to transform how we make, move and sell our products to customers and fundamentally change the future shape of our business.
This is not a far-away promise; we must act now to rapidly cut our footprint. To deliver this, we need our colleagues to better understand the carbon impact of our products and processes, we need to back our suppliers to innovate and adapt to the changing environment and we must work together to help customers enjoy lower carbon lives.”
Earlier this month, Steve Rowe visited our suppliers at Village Bakery in Wrexham, North Wales and met with colleagues from Westbridge Furniture, based in Holywell – one of M&S’s original 2008 eco factories. He was joined by customer and young climate campaigner, Luisa Walford, who first wrote to Steve aged 14 to complain about the company’s use of plastic. Steve contacted Luisa after her original letter, and she has gone on to participate in M&S’s new partnership with Reboot the Future (detail below).
Delivering its net zero goal will require M&S to work in partnership with its customers, colleagues, suppliers and the wider industry.
Helping customers enjoy lower carbon lives
According to the latest M&S Family Matters report, climate change concerns continue to grow amongst UK families with 64% of the 5,000 respondents naming it as a top concern, up 3% compared to just three months ago; and it is the fastest growing topic of family discussion, increasing by 7% on last quarter. To help customers enjoy lower carbon lives M&S is setting out a programme of initiatives including:
- The launch of a new incentive programme to reward its 12.5 million Sparks customers when they donate preloved clothes to its Shwopping partnership with Oxfam. From this week onwards, customers simply need to scan the QR code at the shwopping point in any of M&S’ 260 clothing stores nationwide and a free treat will automatically be added to their Sparks account via the M&S app.
- A new partnership with Reboot the Future, a not-for-profit organisation that works with young people and business leaders, to create resources to make it easier for customers to discuss the challenges and opportunities to live lower carbon lives. These are available for free on M&S.com.
Today (30th September) also marks the return of the iconic Look Behind the Label campaign, which brings to life the action M&S is taking to do right by the planet. Customers told M&S that climate action can often feel overwhelming, so its new campaign focuses on the stories behind five every-day products from coffee to cotton that are responsibly sourced. Initially launching with a focus on climate, customers will be able to look behind the M&S label – on M&S’s new Look Behind the Label hub. The campaign will share M&S’s stories across its full ESG programme, from its leading animal welfare standards to its community impact. M&S will be switching its logo across its social channels to encourage customers to visit the new hub, which also sets out the everyday actions customers can take to help reduce their carbon footprint.
Building carbon literacy amongst colleagues
M&S has introduced three key colleague initiatives as part of its roadmap to net zero. Firstly, M&S has identified 100 colleagues as ‘Carbon Champions’ across key roles in buying, sourcing and operations to drive net zero delivery. Secondly, the retailer is developing a programme of learning to grow carbon literacy and equip its colleagues with the understanding to identify carbon-related risks and opportunities.
Leading authority on carbon footprinting and author of ‘There Is No Planet B’, Professor Mike Berners-Lee hosted the first learning session and commented: “Equipping colleagues with an awareness of the carbon – or greenhouse gas – costs and impacts that sit behind activities and products is one of the most powerful routes to change. If you can understand and treat carbon in a similar way that you would cash – it makes you stop, think, consider your actions and find an alternative solution.”
Finally, to harness colleagues’ passion across the globe, M&S is launching a new online Green Network so they can share ideas, inspiration, and innovation.
Supporting supplier partners to innovate and find sustainable solutions
As an own brand retailer, M&S is uniquely positioned to work with its long-standing trusted supplier partners to find new and better ways of doing things. To deliver its goal of net zero, it is essential the retailer works in partnership with suppliers to deliver positive change, as 97% of its Scope 3 emissions come from the supply chain. M&S has committed to zero deforestation in palm oil and soy sourcing by 2025, sourcing more sustainable fibres by 2025 and supporting its Select Farm partners to advance lower carbon farming methods with its five-year Farming with Nature programme.
Collaborating with the wider industry to make net zero a reality
This ambition cannot be achieved alone, and M&S is collaborating with the wider industry, including The Consumer Goods Forum, the British Retail Consortium, WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2030, Textiles 2030 and the National Farmers’ Union. M&S is a member of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C and part of the Race to Zero campaign.
Governance and investment
In January 2021, M&S established its ESG board sub-committee to provide robust oversight of its entire ESG programme including Plan A, Human Rights and Ethical Trading, Community, People, Health and Animal Welfare and to hold the business’ leadership to account for delivery.
M&S is resetting its approach to investment to ensure Plan A sits at the very centre of its investment decisions as the retailer moves into the next phase of its transformation. As part of this, M&S is investing in new data platforms and technology to track digitally and monitor its Scope 3 emissions to ensure it can report its progress transparently.