world’s most sustainable retailer

Friday, 1 October 2010 01:18 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cassandra Mascarenhas

British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) reported on the progress in year three of its ‘Plan A’ initiative, an eco and ethical programme which was launched in the year 2007. Following the success of the initiative, the major retailer has now spearheaded a programme to be the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015.

The new commitment means that the retailer will ensure that every single one of its 400 million products will become ‘Plan A’ products, meaning they will each have at least one sustainable quality. ‘Plan A’ has resulted in a 50% saving on energy and water consumption, 80% on carbon emissions and over £50 million of profit invested back into the business as a result.

A ‘Plan A’ conference was held in Colombo yesterday where M&S invited over 120 of its suppliers in Sri Lanka to talk about their own experiences and to share M&S’s best practices, strategies and knowledge with them, to stimulate it to be more innovative and to try different things.

“Sri Lanka is the second largest country for sourcing for us and has some of the best factories, really leading the way in outstanding manufacturing standards. Every single one of our 98 factories in the country is in some way already onboard the ‘Plan A’ initiative and four of them are green factories,” said Head of Sourcing Offices and Technology Krishan Hundal.

Hundal also glossed over the loss of the GSP+ concession when questioned about it, stating that M&S, which currently employs over 75,000 personnel in their factories in Sri Lanka, has no qualms about paying a slightly higher price for premium goods of top quality from Sri Lanka, explaining the loss was just another aspect in the total picture.

When launched in 2007, ‘Plan A’ had 100 commitments of which 62 have been achieved so far. The initiative includes tackling climate change, the use of sustainable raw materials, reducing waste, to be a fair partner to its suppliers, customers and employees and to encourage healthy lifestyles through its food business.

One of its most notable achievements has been the clothes recycling scheme that it started up in collaboration with the charity Oxfam, where customers were encouraged to bring back their used M&S clothing for recycling. Over 300,000 people brought back their clothes on the first day itself, raising over one million pounds for the charity.