Blog: Leonie BarrieGoing green

Leonie Barrie | 16 January 2007

Marks & Spencer today raised the bar for green retail, revealing an ambitious GBP200m eco-plan to help it become the UK’s leading ‘green retailer.’ Over the next five years it intends to become carbon neutral, stop sending waste to landfill, overhaul its supply chain to limit environmental impact, enhance its ethical trading initiatives and educate customers on healthy and green living.

The plan not only sets a new benchmark for the way businesses tackle sustainability issues, but there’s also a clear business case for investing in green business practices to garner favour with increasingly environmentally conscious shoppers. For clothing in particular, M&S says it will increase the use of recycled plastic bottles as the raw material for its polyester and sell over 20 million garments made from Fairtrade cotton.

I’ve recently been speaking with several industry commentators about the key apparel industry issues likely to come to the fore in 2007 – and green and ethical sourcing is definitely one of the main topics that keeps rearing its head. Several retailers in the UK have already jumped onto the ethical trading and organic bandwagons in the past year as consumers say they are increasingly concerned about the origins of their clothes, and following M&S’ actions today this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

But a key question also seems to be how long will it be before these consumers start to put real pressure on fashion retailers in terms of green and ethical sourcing, emulating the concerns already emerging in the food sector? M&S’ moves today are a start, but how much further would it and other retailers be prepared to go in their quest for the green pound?

For example, are “clothing miles” likely to become an issue like “food miles”? Would consumers be willing to pay a premium to keep sourcing within a particular country or region? And will garments that have been flown in from abroad be labelled as such in an attempt to make it easier for customers to choose those that have less impact on the environment? OK, these ideas might seem a bit far-fetched just now, but if companies and consumers really are serious about doing their bit for the environment then maybe they won’t seem quite so extreme in a few years' time.

M&S to go eco friendly


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