Internationally recognized retailer, Marks and Spencer, may be famous for its delicious line of food products and an attractive clothing line, but these days, the store is becoming well known for more than what it produces in-store. Drawing attention for its recent pledge to eliminate hazardous chemicals from its textile and clothing supply chain by 2020, the company trudges forth with its commitment to becoming one of the most sustainable retailers in the industry.

M&S: Responsible Retailer of the Year

“We’ve reduced our fuel emissions. That’s a lorry load off your mind.”

Catchy isn’t it? Following a long five years spent convincing the public of their commitment to go green, M&S is now broadcasting its successes in every direction, including the side of delivery trucks (lorries) stamped with this slogan; and we can’t blame them. Having won the Responsible Retailer of the Year award at the World Retail Awards 2012 (they were also named the winners in 2011 and 2007), the company is recognized as “outstanding corporate citizens”, delivering world class standards of best practice in corporate responsibility.

In response to the award, M&S CEO Marc Bolland says: “It is our mission to engage millions of people in the journey to a world of more sustainable consumption … Plan A is how we do business at M&S – it involves our customers, our employees, our suppliers and our supplier’s suppliers. We are fully committed to it”. What exactly is Plan A? Read on.

Plan A: Setting and meeting goals

“Plan A” was launched back in 2007, when the company set formidable goals in the realm of corporate sustainability, working with suppliers in 70 countries and over 2 million workers in 2,000 factories and 20,000 farmers (numbers sourced from the Guardian UK). Specifically, according to the Sloan Review and the Plan A website, M&S set out to reach 100 sustainable commitments in five years, working with customers and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce water waste, use sustainable materials, trade ethically, and help customers lead a healthier lifestyle.  This year, M&S has upped that number by 80 additional commitments to be met by 2015. Of these goals, the company has, so far, reached 138, with 30 reported as being “on plan”, 6 “behind plan”, and 6 “not achieved”.

Some of the goals that have been met since the launch of Plan A include that of sending no waste to landfill – achieved by selling short-life products at a discount and donating safe amounts to charities, and recycling what’s left – leading to a 40% reduction of overall food waste and the lowering of corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 22%. One of the biggest pushes for M&S has been in the area of packaging (read about the M&S commitment to responsible packaging here).

M&S and energy-efficiency

From the number of efforts being undertaken by Marks and Spencer, many are being directed into energy-saving initiatives designed to reduce consumption which will lead to financial savings while protecting the local and global environment.

According to the Plan A website, the company had aimed to make all  UK & Irish operations carbon neutral by 2012, maximizing their use of renewable energy and using offsetting as a last resort. The retailer also committed to reducing the amount of energy uses in-store by 25% per square foot of floor space, sourcing (or generating) 100% “green” (renewable) electricity in stores, offices and distribution centres, and having 20% on-site energy generation from renewables in all new builds where practicable. Moreover, the company set out to achieve a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency and energy use throughout warehouses and offices.

That’s the what; but what about, the how? In order to reach these goals, M&S has focused on multiples approaches to energy conservation. Among many, these include the implementation of measurement and managing quality control, and sub-metering to establish energy use throughout factories. Other efforts to decrease energy consumption include the recycling of energy by way of heat recovery systems on new machines, boilers, and retrofits, and the exploration of AC drives to lessen the amount of energy being used for pumps, blowers and pulleys (read more about VFDs here). The company also plans to ensure that all hot water pipes are well-insulated in order to avoid future leaks and poorly functioning steam traps.

For status reports and a detailed outline of how Plan A is being implemented in M&S stores, offices and warehouses, click here!

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