Marks & Spencer Recycling Reaches 92% as Firm Tackles Green Goals

Marks & Spencer Recycling Reaches 92% as Firm Tackles Green Goals

Marks & Spencer reports making major strides toward its green goals and says it has already achieved 70 of 180 objectives contained in the sustainability agenda the U.K.-based retailer calls Plan A.

Accomplishments listed in the company's latest account of its Plan A efforts include achieving a 92 percent recycling rate for operational waste in the chain's stores, administrative offices and distribution centers in the United Kingdom.

M&S launched Plan A in 2007, expanded the 100-point list of sustainability commitments to 180 objectives last March and issued a three-year progress report this past June. The update released Friday, which the company is calling a half-year report, charts progress in recent months. For example, the current recycling rate is an improvement of 39 percentage points compared to the 53 percent recycling rate reported in June. Marks and & Spencer is aiming for zero waste by 2012.

Marks & Spencer is among the global retailers that have set ambitious environmental goals and has declared it intends to become "the world's most sustainable major retailer by 2015"  by achieving all its Plan A commitments. The chain has edged ahead of U.K. giant Tesco and Walmart, the world's largest retailer, in sustainability and environmental performance, according to the report "Retail: A Sustainability Benchmark," which was released last spring by Five Winds International and GreenBiz.com.

 A Sustainability Benchmark."

In addition to pushing green performance among retailers, such competition spurs U.K. businesses and government agencies to greater action and helps to place the country among the world leaders in sustainability efforts.

In a post for GreenBiz.com last week, Forrester Research Vice President and Research Director Christopher Mines credited "leading companies' efforts to improve their sustainability posture" as one of the three reasons why the U.K. is the global front-runner when it comes to using IT to further sustainability. Mines wrote:

"Whether it's Astra-Zeneca in pharma, Tesco and Marks & Spencer in retailing, BA in transportation, or the U.K. Ministry of Defence in the public sector, leading U.K. institutions are making the commitments and investments to transform their business processes in a more sustainable direction."

Plan A progress highlighted by Marks & Spencer includes:

  • The investment of more than £3 million in Plan A Innovation Funds in 38 projects since the fund's inception in June. The fund supports R&D for M&S teams and their suppliers and early-stage development of new Plan A products and services. According M&S, projects include the company's first major move toward rail distribution, a reuse and recycling program for M&S uniforms and closed loop recycling of wool and cashmere.
  • The company's use of 399 aerodynamic teardrop trailers to truck goods to distribution centers in the U.K. The trailers are 10 percent more fuel efficient, can carry 10 percent more stock and account for more than half of the chain's distribution fleet. M&S estimates that using the trailers will reduce the firm's carbon footprint by 2,300 metric tons a year.
  • Use of environmentally friendly CO2 refrigeration systems in 25 stores, and the conversion of refrigeration systems in 175 stores to HFC (R407a) gas that "halves harmful emissions should they escape."
  • Operating what has become the biggest recycling and reuse program for hangers in the U.K. About 150 million hangers a year work their way through the closed loop system. After being reused in stores as many times as possible, the hangers are returned to the supplier for refurbishing. Hangers than can't be refurbished are broken down and materials are used to make new hangers for M&S stores. The company says the process helps avoid 15,000 metric tons of CO2 every year and saves more than £5 million in raw material costs.
  • Expanding the company's Farming For The Future sustainable agriculture program to more than 10,000 farmers, including the suppliers of the chain's fresh meat, dairy products, produce and flowers.
  • Distributing 35,000 free energy monitors to M&S employees in October for use in their homes.

Image courtesy of Marks & Spencer.