Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland has urged businesses to put consumers at the centre of their sustainability strategies.

Speaking yesterday (19 June) on the retailer's new focus, Bolland said: "If you can't get the engagement of the 20-year-old consumer somewhere, we will always behind the curve."

And, with increasing affluence in the East, engaging consumers is more important than ever.

"The consumer is still living the American Dream," he said. "The American Dream is to have more and more and a much more materialistic dream than we have ever had before. The issue is not in the West; the issue is that consumption dream is very much in the emerging markets."

With the planet having finite resources, Bolland called for the creation of a "new role model of what is a better life".

While M&S has made great strides in improving its supply chain, it has only recently begun to engage consumers on the apparel side.

First steps have included putting 30-degree wash instructions on clothing care labels - but the launch of its Shwopping initiative in April was the first aggressive move towards changing consumer behaviour.

Shwopping encourages shoppers to donate an old item of clothing when they buy something new.

The scheme was launched in response to figures that showed in the UK alone, some 2.7m items of clothing are sent to landfill each day, or one billion items a year.

The partnership with Oxfam has so far seen some 1,200 cardboard recycling bins called Shwop Drops installed across the retailer's stores. And, since its launch six weeks ago, M&S says it has received half-a-million used and unwanted items for donation to Oxfam. It is aiming to collect 350m items each year, one for every garment it sells.

A survey carried out by the retailer found that one in five of UK residents polled admitted to throwing out an item of clothing after just one wear.

At an average cost of GBP22.73 per discarded item, this equates to over GBP91m in wearable items ending up in landfill each year after only being worn once.