In 2007 Marks & Spencer launched Plan A.  A set of sustainability directives to improve the way the retail giant interacts with the environment and its supply chain.  Now, nearly ten years later, Plan A 2020 is a new revised set of initiatives with the aim to make M & S carbon neutral.

Plan A 2020 is far reaching and inclusive.  They encourage people to get involved with Plan A that are not necessarily part of the organisation.  With this in mind let’s take a look at Plan A 2020 and see how Marks and Spencer is trying to achieve the ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral.


From start to finish cotton is hard to farm and environmentally damaging.  It requires the use of large quantities of pesticides and water.  As most of it is grown in the developing world, conditions for the workers are not the best.  So what is Mark & Spencer’s solution?

M & S takes a three pronged approach.  They work with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to produce more sustainable sources of cotton in India.  These sources use less water and pesticides than conventional cotton farms.  M & S also uses organic cotton.  Here, it ensures that cotton farms comply with EU legislation (EC 834/2007) and carries the correct certification to show authenticity.  As a result, their lingerie range is now made with 50% organic cotton.

The company also uses recycled cotton as much as possible.  Discarded clothes and material from the manufacturing process is re-spun and blended into new fabric.  M & S clearly marks its clothing that has been made with recycled cotton.  This allows customers to support the retailer’s initiatives and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

M & S also supports Fairtrade initiatives.


M & S’s approach to farming is to ethically source food from UK and Irish farms as much as possible.  If you read the website descriptions of the farms they work with, animal welfare is at the forefront.   Given the horsemeat scandals that have emerged over the last few years, it is refreshing that M & S and their suppliers seem to have built solid partnerships.

Arguably, more admirable is their solution to waste food.  Using the same partnership principle unsold food, where possible redistributed to food banks, community cafes, and hospices throughout the UK.  Their ultimate aim is to reduce waste food as much as possible.

Supply Chain

M & S is very open about its supply chain.  They have an interactive map revealing they use 1229 factories in 53 countries.  You can drill down into the map to pinpoint where clothes and food comes from, and the name of the factory or farm that produces it.  It is very impressive.

What M & S have realised is that sustainability success can be achieved through engagement.  Plan A 2020 clearly sets out how M & S is going to achieve a carbon neutral business, and improve the lives of everyone it is connected to, including its customers.

There are not many retailers that are actively trying to fight climate change.  Hopefully, after seeing Marks and Spencer’s efforts, more will get onboard using Plan A 2020 as a blueprint.

Source: Marks and Spencer