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Listening and Taking Action

Our success depends on the support of stakeholders in our communities. Their engagement is also fundamental to the delivery of Plan A. The more engaged we are with our stakeholders, the more successful Plan A is likely to be.

Many different stakeholders have an interest in our approach to, and performance on, social, environmental and ethical issues. We know that we don’t have all the answers, so their views are of real value.

We try to build and strengthen trust with all our stakeholders when it comes to our performance and our transparency and accountability on issues and decision that concern them. We want to be recognised as leader on transparency in retail.

Commitments and targets
We’ve defined a compelling brand purpose – ‘Making Every Moment Special’. It’s supported by our four brand values – Inspiration, Innovation, Integrity and In Touch. These values provide the clarity we need to engage successfully with all our stakeholders about sustainability.  

We’re determined to listen to stakeholders, and work collaboratively with them to do business.

Our approach to sustainability is largely guided by our stakeholders. We’ve defined effective ways to listen to their views and respond.

The ways we engage with stakeholders reflect the relative importance of their concerns and their preferences. We always allow them to express themselves openly, without fear or restrictions. We engage with them in three different ways:

  • Reactively: responding to information requests, questions and enquiries, including those relevant to Plan A and specific sustainability issues
  • Passively: providing information to ensure our stakeholders are better informed about our programme and can access information that interests them
  • Proactively: facilitating dialogue and engagement with key stakeholders to actively involve them in the delivery of Plan A by finding innovative solutions to our sustainability challenges, and to share emerging and best practice
Our stakeholders include customers, employees, investors, civil society organisations, and the media. The table below lists our main stakeholder groups and provides examples of the ways we engage with them. You can read more about stakeholder engagement in our Plan A Report
Stakeholder group
How we listen and engage 
  • Monitoring sales of products
  • Participation in Plan A activities and campaigns
  • Contact with our Retail Customer Services
  • Feedback through our Plan A email service
  • Research and surveys
  • Social media
  • Plan A Champions
  • Business Involvement Groups
  • Feedback through our Plan A email
  • Annual ‘Your Say’ survey
  • Independent internal hotlines
  • Participation in Plan A activities and campaigns
  • Annual General Meeting
  • Meetings with institutional investors
  • Survey of institutional investors
  • SRI indexes and information requests
  • Supplier conferences
  • Tendering processes
  • Supplier Exchange website and network
  • Visits and meetings
  • Agricultural shows

  • News releases
  • Social media
  • Interviews 
  • Visits and meetings
  • Feedback through our Plan A email service
Government and regulators 
  • Meetings 
  • Dialogue with trade bodies
  • Responses to consultations
  • Plan A stakeholder conferences
Wider society 

(NGOs, industry organisations, multi-stakeholder initiatives,
community groups and sustainability experts)

  • Visits and meetings
  • Participation in benchmarking and surveys
  • Industry working groups
  • Multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • Joint projects
  • Plan A 2020 Challenges website
  • Plan A stakeholder conference
  • Sustainable Retail Advisory Board

Our Code of Ethics and Behaviours sets out the key policies and procedures that define how we engage with customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, government, regulators, and the media. 

Find out more about our approach to transparency and our approach to leading with others or community engagement.

Many different social, environmental and ethical issues have an impact on our business, either directly or indirectly though our global supply chains. Consequently, we have to manage a continually evolving set of issues, as expectations change and new issues emerge. We prioritise the issues we face by consulting external stakeholders and discussing them inside our business.

In 2006, we carried out detailed research with our stakeholders, to understand the issues that most concerned them and how they believed we should respond. We identified five key impacts: climate change; waste; sustainable raw materials; fair partner; and health. As a large employer we also identified the importance of people and workplace issues. These priority areas formed the basis of our Plan A programme, which we launched in 2007.

In preparation for our 2010 Plan A update, and as part of their assurance process in 2008 and 2009, we commissioned EY to gather impartial feedback about Plan A from NGOs. They were asked to comment on:

  • Which existing Plan A commitments are most important?
  • Have we missed any issues?
  • How important are the omitted issues compared to existing Plan A commitments?
Their feedback reassured us that Plan A addresses the right issues, but needs to stay relevant and we need to do more to involve our customers and suppliers. We used this feedback to prioritise our assurance processes and shape our 2010 Plan A update.

Over the past five years, with the help of our stakeholders we’ve continued to develop, refine and update our Plan A programme to make sure we address our key social, environmental and ethical challenges. Our most recent version of Plan A – Plan 2020 - which we launched in 2014, addressed our most significant issues.
With every successive version of Plan A, we’ve introduced new targets and a focussed more and more on actions that we believe we can deliver improved sustainability across our business. Our management team has also prioritised our Plan A commitments.

We’ve ranked our Plan 2020 commitments on a matrix, taking into account their importance to stakeholders and importance to M&S. The matrix was sense checked and amended together with our external assurance provider.

Listening and Taking Action Matrix

Around 40 commitments were ranked as being of high importance to stakeholders and of either high or medium importance to M&S. These commitments are now all independently assured. All our other commitments are assured by our Internal Audit team.

We regularly review our approach to materiality and welcome feedback at

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business. 

We want to know what our stakeholders think about Plan A and how they can help us improve it. You can share your views at

Key documents

Find out more about our Plan A Stakeholder Events


Find out about our approach to transparency