M&S has set out its latest Plan A achievements

M&S has set out its latest Plan A achievements

Marks & Spencer has published its first supply chain map for clothing and its first human rights report as part of the retailer's ethical commitments detailed in its first Plan A update under new CEO Steve Rowe. 

A further 22 commitments were achieved in 2015/16, M&S said in its latest report on progress on its Plan A sustainability goals. Of those, the retailer said its customers and stakeholders can now see where M&S clothing, footwear and accessories are made on an interactive supply chain map, detailing nearly 700 suppliers.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of all M&S products now have an eco or ethical quality, up from 64% last year. Examples include the Limited London clothing collection made from sustainable fabrics in eco factories.

Alongside its Plan A report, M&S has also published its first human rights report as part of its commitment as signatory the UN Global Compact last month, outlining the retailer's approach to respecting human rights within its own business operations and throughout its supply chain.  

The report outlines a number of targets M&S aims to achieve in two stages. By 2018 it hopes to improve the identification and management of salient risks. This will involve a business-wide focused plan and stakeholder engagement to address these risks, grievance mechanisms, and human
rights reporting providing insights into performance.

By 2020, M&S said it wants to be promoting and supporting human rights across its business and supply chain through greater collaboration with governments, other companies and NGOs, capturing and disseminating examples of best practice, and implementing community and volunteering programmes based on delivering human rights outcomes.

"In the past year, we have had a number of senior discussions on human rights with our board executive directors and external Sustainable Retail Advisory board," said Rowe. "External consultants have provided training to business practitioners on understanding of human rights risks, in the process highlighting some that had previously not been realised. We have cross-referenced our thinking with on-the-ground due diligence assessments and with expert stakeholders."

Rowe said the insight has highlighted that many of M&S's human rights impacts lie in its extended supply chain. 

"It's also challenged us to reflect whether our current activity is really having the necessary impact on affected rights holder. No area of our business is without human rights risk, and there is much to do to cement a human rights approach into how we do business."

In order to address the complexity of developing a business response to human rights, M&S has formed a Human Rights Director Steering Group, comprising its Plan A director, food technical director, clothing and home technical director, head of organisational development, and head of responsible sourcing. It is also in the process of formalising an independent stakeholder review panel to "help inform and improve" M&S's identification and management of salient risks. 

Also within its Plan A achievements for 2016, M&S said that 42% of the cotton used to make its products is now comes from more sustainable sources. It also sources 28% of its leather from Leather Working Group certified tanneries.

The retailer also managed to reduce its store and warehouse energy use by 39%, and water use by 31% thanks to continued investment in technology and people engagement. 

"2015 was an important year for sustainable business and Plan A," said Mike Barry, director of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer. "Yet again we've achieved tough and stretching targets. Under Steve's leadership we'll continue to play our part and crucially put the customer at the heart of everything we do, nurturing the strong trust they have in us and inspiring them with new and innovative solutions to more sustainable living that feels personal and local to them."

Last month, Rowe set out his plans to turn around the retailer's key clothing division by lowering prices and improving style, fit and quality – after the troubled unit saw like-for-like sales slump 2.9% over the past year.

How M&S plans to revamp its clothing business

Click here to view the Plan A report and here to view the Human Rights report.