Company Review Marks & Spencer

January 12, 2017

Welcome to the Marks & Spencer company review. In this series of articles, we put the spotlight on businesses that we think are doing ambitious and honorable things for the environment. These features will cover things like corporate social responsibility, sustainability, green credentials, carbon reduction measures, recycling, reuse and reduction efforts, supply chain responsibility, and more.

Each category will be scored out of 20, to give a total score of 100.

Marks & Spencer, better known as M&S, has been in operation since 1884, when Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer set up the first store in Leeds. In 1998, they became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over £1bn, and they currently have 979 stores in the UK, with 615 of them stocking food products. Interestingly, their business plan includes a downsize, with the plan to reduce by 100 stores. 


Score: 16%

With over 85,000 staff and 1,300 stores worldwide, a lot of thought and planning has to go into every sustainability project that gets launched. They explain very eloquently in the following passage exactly why they are so committed. “Environmental risks and social inequality are making the world more complicated and unpredictable. Customers are increasingly aware of their personal impact on the world and businesses must work hard to build and maintain their trust. Growing pressure on natural resources and poor global stewardship may increase our costs, restrict our access to key raw materials and make our global supply chains more volatile.” “Against this backdrop, we’re on a journey to make our business more sustainable. We believe a successful business must also be environmentally and socially sustainable. This belief isn’t new. We’ve always maintained that business practices that benefit society improve our long-term performance.” Their sustainability project is called Plan A, which is a business wide strategy that includes approaching sensitive issues such as: Climate Change Waste & Circular Economy Natural Resources Responsible Sourcing Product Sustainability Human Rights Community Engagement Responsible Marketing The strategy is done through the following actions (read all if you care to know more): Central coordination Local ownership Building capacity and capability Performance incentives Engaging transparently with stakeholders Engaging the value chain Leading with others to accelerate change Monitoring and reporting Sustainability benchmarks and indices Certified social, environmental and ethical standards One thing that we like from M&S, that we don’t see from other companies so often, is that they admit that they are not an expert, that sustainability is not innate to them, and so they must collaborate with expert organisations to help things like: Demonstrating the business case for sustainability Climate change Deforestation Product sustainability Circular economy Enhancing the lives of people and communities Read more

Green Credentials

Score: 16%

ISO 50001:2011, the International Energy Management Systems standard Certified to all three Carbon Trust Standards, which cover Carbon, Water, and Waste Management CommunityMark member Self certified as carbon neutral in accordance with the PAS 2060:2014 ‘Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality’ Set up a ‘Food Sustainability Scorecard’ for their produce suppliers Factories who wish to supply to them must meet the ‘Eco Factory Status’ and Ethical Excellence Status’ M&S named UK's most ethical high street clothing retailer in Ethical Consumer Magazine Responsible Retailer of the Year 2012 Freight Transport Association Multimodal Award for Contribution to Environmental Sustainability Awarded The Wildlife Trust Biodiversity Benchmark in recognition of their efforts at Cheshire Oaks They are working with the World and UK Green Building Councils and Considerate Constructors Scheme for construction projects Member of RE100 campaign to be 100% powered by renewables More awards

Corporate Social Responsibility Test

Score: 16%

With more than 70,000 UK employees, bringing valuable experiences and meaning to their work has become very important, as explained in their official statement: ‘We are committed to driving a sustainable business that is both commercially successful and socially and environmentally responsible. This includes providing our employees in the UK and overseas with a safe and healthy working environment and having an organisational culture which promotes diversity, inclusivity, personal development and respect. We know it’s our people who make M&S successful. We want people to enjoy coming to work and for the workplace to be free from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. ‘ Their CSR work is much what you’d expect of a multi-billions-pounds-per-year sort of conglomerate. They are doing great work through: Provision of medical insurance Human rights in the workplace Employee representation Equal opportunities Pension scheme Non-discrimination Corporate ethics and Pay and working conditions One area where they do go above and beyond is through community engagement, with schemes set up to help people with barriers to employment get back into work, ways to involve the local communities in their stores (such as giving staff one paid day off per year to volunteer), they’ve donated £3m to 10 charities through their M&S card scheme, and best of all they’re supporting communities along the supply chain with health, education and environment.

Carbon Footprint

Score: 19%

Reducing carbon footprint at M&S seems to be something quite important to them, especially if we remember this quote from earlier in this article that said “Growing pressure on natural resources and poor global stewardship may increase our costs, restrict our access to key raw materials and make our global supply chains more volatile… Against this backdrop, we’re on a journey to make our business more sustainable.” Fortunately, the financial incentive was enough for them, as they actually became the first major UK retailer to become carbon neutral back in 2012 (Read how here). One of the main ways that they approached carbon neutrality was to intensely vet their supply chain and make big changes to an already vast and complex system. The other ways they got there was to change how they refrigerated products, and also through switching to renewable energy and offsetting. Now, offsetting might be cheating a little bit, but we will let them off, it’s all for the greater good, right?  Logistics made up an incredible 85% of their total emissions, and so they looked to make big reductions, and they did. With 60% of their footprint from road vehicles alone, they invested in more double-decker trailers so they could haul 50-70% more stock per journey, as well as rolling out driver performance software. The fuel savings were incredible. You may have missed it in the news, but M&S actually invested in the world’s biggest rooftop solar panel array at their Castle Donington site, and won some awards for it in the process. This one panel system collects enough energy to power 1,600 homes! M&S 2007-2016 facts Reduced operational carbon footprint by 24%  Improved energy efficiency by 34%, Energy bills reduced by £22m Greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration units dropped by 68% Made its operations carbon neutral

Recycling, Reuse, Reduction

Score: 17%

The first and most impressive thing at M&S is that 100% of their waste from stores is recycled. From there, it continues to impress. For the last 10 years, M&S and Oxfam have grown a partnership called Shwop, for clothes recycling. This initiative has led to £16m worth of clothes to be donated, which has been invested in clean water facilities in Africa.  In 2014, M&S pledged to change their CPET black plastic trays (generally for microwaveable meals) so that they could be recognised by infrared sorting machines at recycling centres. This led to millions of the trays suddenly being recycled instead of sent to landfill, a big victory for M&S. When food is not sold in store, some of it is diverted to food banks and food recycling centres to be sold for discounted prices. Anything that cannot be redistributed is sent to anaerobic digestion, a process that turns food waste into electricity without the use of fire.  They estimate that their entire supply chain creates 2,500,000 tonnes of waste per year, an extraordinary but understandable figure. However, despite the huge figure, M&S are involved in all sorts of voluntary and legislative movements to reduce wastage, as well as various environmental schemes that will help them be more resource efficient (read here).

Total Eco Score

Score: 84%