Forests constitute the world’s largest and most important ecosystems, and contain the largest reservoir of plants and animals on land. Rainforests store the most carbon by area, are of most value to disadvantaged communities, and contain greater biodiversity than almost any other type of forest. Yet these are the forests mankind is depleting most rapidly year on year, as the result of illegal or badly managed logging and land conversion for agriculture, including the cultivation of soy, palm oil and cattle.
The demand for timber is expected to triple by 2050, which will make it increasingly difficult to obtain. Wood is an essential commodity for M&S. It provides the base material for many of our products - most notably furniture, but also many others, including tissues, hairbrushes and greeting cards. We couldn’t package our products, even run our business, without wood materials, so we appreciate the vital importance of forests and timber plantations.
M&S recognises commodity agriculture as a major contributor to forest loss, with an estimated 50% of tropical forest loss being associated with palm oil, soy and wood-pulp plantation development and cattle ranching. However, these commodities can also play a valuable role in promoting sustainable livelihoods, agricultural productivity and good land management, so we do not believe prohibiting their use is the best way to address deforestation. We aim to exclude deforestation from our own supply chains while working with others to promote good land management and sustainable production practices at a landscape level.
Commitments and targets
We’re committed to engage in worldwide efforts to eliminate deforestation from global supply chains in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity and ensure the rights of communities to maintain traditional lifestyles.
We want all of our palm oil, soy, cattle products, timber and wood fibre to come from the most sustainable sources, so we’ve committed to remove commodity-driven deforestation from our supply chains by 2020 and ensure that the fabrics we use in clothes and home products don’t come from ancient and endangered forests. We actively support restoration and conservation solutions for these natural resources.
We’ve made major investments in programmes to tackle deforestation and promote sustainable forestry.
Our supply chain is complex. We don’t own farms or factories and don’t purchase ingredients and commodities directly. Most of our ingredients and commodities are sourced in a global market. In some supply chains it’s possible to engage directly with growers - for example, our furniture manufacturer operates near to both forest and saw mill. But in other supply chains, particularly those that are more complicated (for example, paper products that are made from lots of different species) or in the case of commodities that we use in relatively small quantities (for example, palm oil) our ability to control and influence is more limited.
We can’t achieve zero deforestation worldwide alone. Even if all our wood is sourced sustainably and we do remove commodity-driven deforestation from M&S supply chains, it will only impact on a limited area of forest and a small percentage of global trade. We need the entire global market to be transformed, which is why deforestation is one of six priority issues on which we’re leading with others to accelerate sector-wide systemic change.
Supply chain interventions, market insights, technical expertise and funding all play a role in the transformation we seek.
Our approach to protecting forests focuses on:
We also have systems in place to comply with the EU Timber Regulation that prohibits placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the European market.
We take into account four guiding principles in our approach to this issue:
- Stewardship – promoting the value of independent certification standards and verification, alongside a clear aspiration to move to more sustainable landscape level management
- Transparency – to encourage a high level of transparency within our supply chains and as a component of land management policy
- Resource Efficiency – to encourage continual improvement in productivity and resource management within agriculture and through the supply chain to reduce our reliance on virgin materials
- Innovation – to promote innovative practices and a greater understanding of the opportunities offered by developing a more circular economy
We report annually about our performance improving the sustainability of wood and forest commodities in our Plan A Report. As a member of WWF's Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN)
we publish an annual status of our current supply chain for various categories of forest goods.
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
We’re collaborating with many partners to help protect the world’s forests. We’re working with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
, Rainforest Alliance, Greenpeace
to improve our own standards and argue the case for a more sustainable approach sustainable forestry and wood sourcing. We’re partnering with Strategic Environmental Consulting to improve our assessment and reporting approach. And we’re working with Canopy
, to improve the sustainable sourcing of wood-based fabrics.