Marks & Spencer Reports Progress on Its Eco-Friendly Agenda

Marks & Spencer Reports Progress on Its Eco-Friendly Agenda

British retailer Marks & Spencer says it has already hit the mark on 20 of the 100 environmental goals of the ambitious green plan the company launched just 22 months ago with a target date for completion of 2012.

The firm detailed its progress on the eco-friendly agency it calls Plan A ("because there is no Plan B," the company says) last week to coincide with a report of its sales for a six-month period ending September 27.

In terms of environmental performance, the company pointed to particular progress in energy saving, waste reduction and increased efficiency in general.

Highlights of its report include the launch of an energy service that sells gas and electricity to customers in partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy and encourages customers to use less power by offering a £15 M&S voucher to anyone reducing annual energy usage by 10 percent.

In addition to helping customers and suppliers to reduce emissions, the firm's Plan A calls for company operations in the UK and Ireland to become carbon neutral and use offsetting only as a last resort  

Waste management efforts include reducing use of single-use, disposable carrier bags in grocery stores by 80 percent — exceeding a 33 percent target — by imposing a 5p fee for their use. Profits so far of more than £500,000 have been donated to an environmental charity called Groundwork to improve playgrounds and open space. The company has also reduced food packaging so that 90 percent of it is now recyclable. And in the apparel division, the firm has recycled more than 70 million coat hangers.

Moves to green the supply chain include using more than 25 million recycled waste plastic bottles to make polyester and strictly monitoring Fairtrade arrangements and factory conditions for a variety of products.

"We continue to make solid progress and although Plan A is less than two years old it is already becoming ingrained into the way we do business," Marks & Spencer Chairman Sir Stuart Rose said in releasing the Plan A progress report. "Conditions may be challenging on the high street but Plan A has made us think of new ways of working. Progress made on energy saving, reducing waste and increasing efficiency mean that twenty-two months in, Plan A is cost neutral."

On the revenue front, Marks and Spencer reported sales overall at £4.2 billion, which represented an increase 0.8 percent — with a 1.1 percent drop in the UK and a 23.9 percent increase internationally — for the six-month period ending September 27.

Yesterday, the firm announced that it is launching an international delivery service for goods purchased online through marksandspencer.com. The new service covers apparel  and some beauty and home accessories typically sent as holiday gifts.  

Marks & Spencer has 660 stores in the UK and 290 internationally. About 51 percent of its business is in food and 49 percent in clothing and housewares.