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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.

Approach
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 
 
Customers 
  • 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
 
Employees 
  • 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
 
Investors 
  • Annual General Meeting
  • Meetings with institutional investors
  • Survey of institutional investors
  • SRI indexes and information requests
 
Suppliers 
  • Supplier conferences
  • Tendering processes
  • Supplier Exchange website and network
  • Visits and meetings
  • Agricultural shows

 
Media 
  • 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.

Materiality 
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 a range of external stakeholders (including opinion formers and environmental and labour rights NGOs) 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.

Our current list of material topics and issues
Topic Issue Associated Commitments & Policies  
Animal Welfare Animal testing 

Household Products


Non-Food Animal Welfare 

 Farm animal health and welfare 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p30)


Farm Animal Health and Welfare 

 Non-food animal welfare Non-Food Animal Welfare 
Circular Economy Waste 

Waste Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p18)


Waste & Circular Economy 

 Packaging 

Waste Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p20)


Waste & Circular Economy


Food Packaging & Hardware 

 Food waste 

Waste Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p19)


Waste & Circular Economy


Food Waste 

 Circular economy 

Waste Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p19)


Waste & Circular Economy 

Climate Change GHG emissions 

Climate Change and GHG Emissions Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p15-16)


Climate Change 

 Transportation 

Transport Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p18)


Climate Change 

 Direct energy consumption 

Energy Consumption & Sourcing Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p17)


Climate Change 

 Refrigeration 

Energy Consumption & Sourcing Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p17)


Climate Change 

Community Engagement Local communities 

Community Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p27)


Community Engagement 

 Partnerships 

Community Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p28)


Community Engagement


Partnerships 

 Global communities 

Community Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p28)


Community Engagement


Global Community Programme 

Corporate Governance Business ethics 

Code of Business Ethics


People 

 Reporting & transparency 

Reporting and Transparency Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p12)


Transparency 

Customer Engagement Marketing & communications 

How We Sell Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p13-14)


Retail Operations 

Deforestation Wood / wood-products 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p31)


Clothing & Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p33)


Protecting Forests 

 Palm oil 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p31)


Palm oil 

 Soy 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p31)


Soy 

 Cattle - beef/leather 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p31)


Protecting Forests 

Employees Employment terms 

Salient human rights issues (Human Rights Report 2016, p16-47)


People


Human Rights 

 Health & wellbeing 

Health & Wellbeing Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p26)


People 

 Diversity & inclusion 

Employment & Diversity Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p23)


People 

 Employment & skills 

Employability Programme Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p24)


Training & Development Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p25-26) 

Human Rights Human rights 

Principal Risks and Uncertainties #8 (Annual Report 2016, p29)


Policy Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p29)


Clothing & Home Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p32)


Salient human rights issues (Human Rights Report 2016, p16-47)


Human Rights


People 

Nutrition Nutrition 

How We Sell Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p13-14)


Public Health 

Product Sustainability Product sustainability 

How We Sell Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p13-14)


Product Sustainability 

 Responsible sourcing 

Policy Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p29)


Responsible sourcing 

Sustainable Buildings Design, construction and operations 

Sustainable Buildings Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p21-22)


Property & Construction Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p33)


Property & Construction 

Sustainable Production (Food) Raw materials 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p30-31)


Raw Materials, Commodities & Ingredients 

 Farming 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p30)


Farming for the Future 

 Manufacturing standards 

Food Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p29)


Foods Supplier Management


Foods Product Standards


Foods Sustainability Scorecard 


Capacity Building Initiatives

Sustainable Production (Clothing & Home) Raw materials Clothing & Home Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p32-33) 
 Chemicals 

Clothing & Home Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p32)


Responsible Chemicals Management 

 Microbeads Clothing & Home Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p32) 
 Manufacturing standards 

Clothing & Home Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p31)


Clothing & Home Supplier Management


Clothing & Home Product Standards 


Capacity Building Initiatives

Water Water

Water Commitments (Plan A Report 2016, p20)


Natural Resources 


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 PlanA@marks-and-spencer.com.

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 PlanA@marks-and-spencer.com or alternatively please feel free to drop a line to Mike Barry, our Director of Plan A and Sustainable Business (Mike.Barry@marks-and-spencer.com). 

Key documents

Find out more about our Plan A Stakeholder Events


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Find out about our approach to transparency


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