Marks & Spencer has achieved a 20 percent reduction in food packaging, increased energy efficiency in stores 19 percent, used 417 million fewer carrier bags last year and invested over £50 million, or $73 million at the current exchange rate, of profit from its Plan A activities back into the business, according to the company’s latest Plan A activities report, “How We Do Business.” Plan A calls, in part, for the company, by 2012, to become carbon neutral and send no waste to landfills.
Three years into Plan A, 62 of the M&A’s original 100 commitments have been achieved, 30 are “on plan” to be achieved by 2012 and seven are “behind plan.” M&A says that one of the later, the use of bio-diesel, is on-hold until “sustainable supplies become available.” At the time of last year’s report, 39 of the commitments had been reached.
The company is reporting that 33 percent less waste is sent to the landfill year-on-year, 40 percent of electricity is sourced from “green” tariff renewable supplies, refrigeration emissions are down 18 percent compared to June, 2007, packaging on general merchandise products has been reduced 36 percent and 84 percent of PET food plastic packaging is made using recycled materials.
But the company does face difficulties in trying to reach its 2012 goals. M&A says the government has changed the rules for reporting renewable electricity so it’s working in partnership with BRE/Pure to decide the best way to meet its commitment to have carbon neutral operations by 2012. Also, despite a “green” travel policy, M&A’s business travel emissions continue to rise. The company says its water use is proving difficult to measure accurately because at many locations it relies on estimated bills. Developing a useful and practical set of measurements for sustainable farming has been more difficult than the company anticipated. Finally, sales of organic food have continued to decline despite what the company says are its best efforts to introduce new products. The company pins this on the economy.
“We’ve made excellent progress, but there’s no time to stand still. It is clear that evidence of environmental damage and social inequality has increased since we launched Plan A,” said Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman of Marks & Spencer. “That’s why we’re now pushing ahead with our new, bigger and bolder version of Plan A with 80 new commitments and the ultimate goal to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015.”
Plan A was extended in March this year to incorporate 80 new commitments and extensions to the original commitments. Progress on the new and extended commitments will be reported on in the 2011 “How We Do Business” report.
Since the launch of Plan A, M&S says that improving energy efficiency, reducing emissions from refrigeration systems and improving the efficiency of its delivery fleet has cut its carbon emissions by eight percent and 20 percent per sq ft of sales floor.
In the past twelve months waste sent to landfill was down by 33 percent and in February Birstall, a Simply Food store near Leeds, became the first ‘zero waste to landfill’ M&S store. Food waste has been reduced by 29 percent and last year M&S says it collected 133 million clothes hangers and re-used 76 per cent of them with the remainder being recycled.
Non-glass packaging is down by 20 percent (foods, average per item) and 36 percent (non-foods, average per item).
M&S says it has become the first UK retailer to purchase GreenPalm certificates, which fund the development of sustainable palm oil, to cover its entire palm oil usage and launched eight products that use RSPO certified palm oil. These are amongst the first products in the UK to receive the certification, according to the company.
Wood sourcing has been improved with 72 percent (including 100 per cent of paper and board used in marketing materials) being FSC certified, recycled or, according to the report, “in a category which otherwise protects forests and communities.”