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Marks & Spencer Over Halfway on Plan A Sustainability Goals

Marks & Spencer has achieved over half of the commitments outlined in its ecological and ethical corporate program, Plan A, according to its How We Do Business Report for 2010/11.

The report says that by the end of 2010/11, M&S had achieved 95 commitments, with 77 on plan, seven behind and one on hold.

Plan A activities delivered a net benefit of over £70 million ($114 million) during the year, up from £50m in 09/10. Savings from projects including efficiency improvements in stores and distribution centres (£13.5m saving last year), using less fuel (£2m), hanger recycling and reuse (£1m), and packaging reductions (£11m) more than outweighed any investments M&S made in Plan A projects, the report said. The surplus monies have been re-invested into the business.

The company has met a majority of commitments under the individual objectives of ensuring efficient use of natural resources in its operations, helping suppliers and customers to cut their carbon footprints, and creating partnerships to help customers reuse or recycle all of M&S’s products and packaging.

Since 2006/7 M&S has reduced non-glass packaging by an average of 26 percent to 20g per item sold, beating a target to cut such packaging by 25 percent by 2012. Last year operational waste was reduced by over a third compared to 08/09 figures and 94 percent of the remaining waste was recycled. M&S now sends all food waste to some form of recycling such as composting or anaerobic digestion, beating a 2012 goal.

The company has achieved a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency in its deliveries to stores, meeting another 2012 goal, and is working towards a 35 percent improvement by 2015.

In 2010 M&S launched home insulation and solar energy installation services, and it also updated its chemical and environmental policy for dye-houses, fabric printers, laundries and tanneries to include water management, as well as revised sections on banned and restricted chemicals.

The company say its progress on 77 targets is according to plan. These include:

  • Ensuring that by 2015 at least 90 percent of household electrical products meet a credible energy efficiency standard, and improving the energy efficiency of the most energy intensive products by at least 25 percent.
  • Transporting 50 percent of International General Merchandise products directly to their retail destinations in 2011/12 and 80 percent in 2013/14 rather than routing through the UK.
  • Making all UK and Republic of Ireland operations (stores, offices, warehouses, business travel and logistics) carbon neutral by 2012.
  • Reducing store, office and warehouse energy usage by 25 percent per sq ft by 2012 and by 35 percent per sq ft by 2015.
  • Procuring 100 percent “green” electricity by 2012 and improve the percentage of small scale sources the company uses.
  • Reducing construction waste generated by 50 percent per £100,000 project by 2015.
  • Reducing the use of printer paper across stores and offices by 25 percent by 2012, including upgrading M&S head office printing technology to improve efficiency and reduce use.
  • Ensuring that M&S operations in the UK and Republic of Ireland (stores, offices and warehouses) will send no waste to landfill by 2012.

In 2010/11 emissions were down by 13 percent from 2006/7 levels, or a reduction of over 90,000 tons to 603,000 tons of CO2e (2006/07: 697,000 tons of CO2e). On a relative basis, emissions were down 25 percent to 38 tons per 1,000 sq ft of salesfloor, from 51 tons per 1,000 sq ft in 2006/7.

The retailer said this reduction was mainly due to improved efficiencies in electricity use, reductions in the leakage of gases from refrigeration and improved levels of waste recycling.

Store energy efficiency improved by 23 percent to 52.0 kWh per sq ft against 67.9 kWh per sq ft in 2006/7. “We believe that these reductions have been achieved by investments in new technology, monitoring individual store performance and involving employees,” the report said.

Energy use at warehouses fell by an average of 24 percent to 20.0 kWh/sq ft (from 26.4 kWh/sq ft in 2006/07). In 2010/11 M&S carried out major lighting upgrades at two of its General Merchandise warehouses using passive infra-red switches which only turn the lights on when people are in the area.

But energy use in its offices rose by six percent, from 49.4 to 52.5 kWh/sq ft. “We believe this increase is due to changes in the use of offices which were empty in 2006/07,” the report said.

The company now sources 54 percent of its electricity from renewable supplies, compared to just two percent in 2006/7.

Areas where M&S is behind plan include its commitment to reduce water usage by 20 percent for existing stores, offices and warehouses by 2012 and by 25 percent by 2015, and to make new stores 35 percent more water efficient from 2010. Its store and office water usage in 2010/11 was 67 litres per sq ft, down by 8 percent against 2006/07 (73 litres per sq ft).

“We’ve struggled to identify ways to reduce usage in line with our target, however, following a series of successful trials we’ve now put a plan in place to improve efficiency in 2011/12,” the report said.

It noted that water usage at food warehouses has already exceeded the 2015 target, down 62 percent at 48 litres per sq ft against 2007/08 (127 litres per sq ft).

The report was this year assured for the first time to the AA1000AS reporting standard.

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