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September 30, 2021

M&S to slash carbon footprint by a third by 2025

UK retailer Marks & Spencer (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.

By Beth Wright

M&S has set out a detailed roadmap to net zero using science-based targets aligned to the UN ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The 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 5.7m tonne 2017 baseline.

The retailer launched Plan A in 2007 and claims to have been 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, M&S CEO Steve Rowe 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.

“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,” he told stakeholders.

“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.”

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 12.5m 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 (30 September) also marks the return of the ‘Look Behind the Label’ campaign, which brings to life the action M&S is taking to do right by the planet. The campaign focuses on the stories behind five everyday 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.

In addition, 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.

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.

In January 2021, M&S established its ESG board sub-committee to provide 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 says it 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.

The retailer increased its profit outlook last month on the back of a strong start to the year.

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