M&S unveils community transformation programme and commits to zero waste

M&S Marks & Spencer
M&S: #SpenditWell campaign

Marks & Spencer has unveiled a “major community transformation programme” to mark the tenth anniversary of it Plan A ethical scheme, as well as a commitment to convert the retailer to a “zero waste” business.

M&S claims the scheme, which forms part of Plan A 2025 and which arrives on the heels of its latest #SpenditWell campaign, will support 1,000 communities and help 10m people live happier, healthier lives and convert with initiatives such as support for children starting school and school leavers, investment in community businesses and outdoor spaces, and efforts to tackle mental health issues.

The programme will be piloted with 10 communities over the next two years with initiatives rolled out to a further 100 locations by 2023 and learnings will be shared with 1,000 locations by 2025.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said the retailer had always been at the forefront of social change during its 133-year history and wanted to remain so. “[…] we’re determined to play a leading role in the years ahead by taking positive action to enable customers and communities to live happier, healthier lifestyles,” he said.

“We’ve looked at what matters to communities, which are issues like access to work-place skills, social inclusion, support for mental health problems and believe we can play a key role and make a real difference to community life. We’re starting with 10 so that we can learn, adapt and develop an agile approach that will allow us to support 1,000 communities by 2025,” Rowe explained.

M&S CEO Steve Rowe

The 10 communities M&S is currently in talks with include Birmingham (focusing on Handsworth and Handsworth Wood), Bradford, Glasgow (focusing on Easterhouse), Liverpool (focusing on Toxteth and Dingle), Derry~Londonderry, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, London Borough of Newham, Norwich and Rochdale.

In these communities, M&S will trial a series of locally tailored initiatives and will work with The Social Innovation Partnership to track how residents feel about their community. To deliver the initiatives M&S will work with local councils and partners including Business In The Community, Royal Voluntary Service, The Silver Line, Power to Change, Frazzled Cafe and Neighbourly. Each of the 10 locations will have a programme of activities that is expected to include some or all of the following, as well as bespoke initiatives:

  • – Support for children starting school, including 10,000 pairs of plimsolls;
  • Careers advice, CV and interview support and work experience for school leavers;
  • – A plan to create the biggest friendship group in the area to tackle loneliness and exclusion by bringing together customers, staff and local people through events at M&S stores such as tea parties and walking clubs and a network of volunteer phone buddies;
  • – Hosting Frazzled Cafes for those feeling stressed or in need of support;
  • Support for up to 100 start-up community businesses in the seven communities in England by partnering with Power to Change to combine grants of up to £50,000 and access to skills and advice on topics such as business planning, supply chains, digital development and customer research. A similar programme with different partners will be developed for the three communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
  • Investment in outdoor spaces. Proposals include urban gardens, high street flowerbeds, city tree planting and green walls;
  • – Grants to support food surplus charities – every year M&S stores will provide an estimated 30,000 meals to the homeless and people living in poverty in the 10 locations;
  • Employee volunteering 

In addition to the community programme M&S outlined detail of how it will work towards becoming a zero-waste business and help 10m people to live “happier, healthier” lives. Initiatives include:

  • – Supporting M&S staff worldwide to provide one million hours of worktime community volunteering between 2017 and 2025;
  • – All M&S packaging to be ‘widely recyclable’ by 2022;
  • Halving food waste by 2025;
  • – At least half of global food sales coming from healthier products by 2022;
  • – Helping to raise £25m for charities tackling cancer, heart disease, mental health problems, loneliness and dementia by 2025;
  • – All key raw materials M&S uses to come from sustainable sources by 2025;
  • – M&S will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in its own operations by 2030 (compared to 2007 levels) and, during the same period, cut emissions in its supply chain by 13.3m tonnes (approved Science Based Target).

M&S has pledged to report back on progress against the plan every June and the commitments will be audited independently and by its own audit team.

The original Plan A programme was launched 10 years ago and key achievements to date include: 27m items of clothing “shwopped”; 1bn hangers saved; making M&S the world’s first and only carbon neutral retailer; carrier bag use reduced by 80%; raising £25m for Breast Cancer Now and £10m for Macmillan; and 17,000 people helped from disadvantaged parts of the community through M&S employability schemes, among others.

“This edition of Plan A reflects the ambition that has been the hallmark of M&S’ efforts since this framework was launched a decade ago. Crucially, M&S has met the moment by updating Plan A to address the urgency of business action to address climate, the need to make sustainability relevant and actionable for its customers, and the changing nature of retail in our fast-changing world,” said Aron Cramer CEO of Business Social Responsibility (BSR).