Community Engagement

We listen to our local communities, our customers and our employees, to make sure we understand their changing needs and are best placed to help them deal with issues such as unemployment or poverty and to improve their health and wellbeing.

We’ve supported our local communities throughout our 130 year history, because we know that vibrant communities are essential for our success. As David Sieff, a member of the M&S founding family, said: “healthy high streets need healthy backstreets”.

We’re committed to support social cohesion, economic prosperity and inclusive growth - by being relevant in local neighbourhoods worldwide, be they in Bristol, Mumbai or Shanghai. We want to be a brand that employees are proud to work for and that customers can trust.

Commitments and targets
Our goal is to create a positive impact in society and improve peoples’ lives wherever we touch them, in line with our company purpose by Making Every Moment Special.

We’re committed to listen to our stakeholders to help us understand social issues and decide what role we can play in helping to find solutions. When working with others, we try to identify shared objectives for our programmes and to assess the mutual social, environmental and business value collaboration brings.

We aim to take a progressive approach to our community engagement. This is reflected in our Plan A commitments on employability, being in touch with the local community, identifying partnership benefits and supporting global communities.

Our approach covers our whole value chain and includes employees, customers, workers in our supply chain, charity partners and local communities around the world. 

We’ve identified four ways in which we can make a material difference as a retailer:
Helping people who face barriers getting into work
Marks & Start is our flagship employability programme. It helps people who face barriers getting into work to gain skills and experience through work placements. Since 2004, we’ve supported over 16,000 single parents, people with disabilities or health conditions, people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and disadvantaged young people. Participants undertake a 2-4 week placement along with coaching and a 'buddy', enabling them to learn about roles in M&S and gain real insight into working in retail. In return we get access to a larger pool of potential talent, ultimately creating a more diverse workforce. Involvement also engages and motivates our employees who serve as buddies.  At present,  Business in the Community, Gingerbread, Remploy and The Prince’s Trust help us deliver Marks & Start. The programme has been launched in our stores in France, Poland and Greece, and with suppliers in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

In 2013, in response to the sharp rise of young people not in employment, we identified a need to do more to address youth unemployment. We launched Make Your Mark, together with The Prince’s Trust, to help unemployed 18-24 year olds. This saw us take our existing young people element of Marks & Start, supporting approximately 150 young people per year, and we multiped it by 10 to support 1,500 young people a year. We are delighted that over 60% of them have gone into work after the programme.

We were also instrumental in setting up Movement to Work, a wider industry collaboration that aims to provide youth employment opportunities. Since its launch, Movement to Work employers have created more than 60,000 vocational training and work experience opportunities for young people, with an estimated average into-work rate of 50%.
Ensuring we are in touch with our local communities

Our customers and colleagues have told us that their local community matters to them, the place where they live and work. Our goal is to help transform 1000 communities, starting with 10 across the UK. Working with local organisations we will create programmes that aim to secure meaningful economic, social and environmental benefits in the communities around our stores. We aim to build on these insights rolling out to another 100 and the sharing the learnings with 1000 locations by 2025. You can follow our progress here.

We provide our employees with one day's paid time off for volunteering, matching funds for fundraising groups (of five or more), offer payroll giving facilities and run employee volunteer awards. Our target is to support our colleagues into 1 million hours of volunteering time between 2017 and 2025. In 2017 we delivered 700 projects up and down the UK supporting local organisations chosen by our stores. Activities ranged from spending time with the elderly, renovating communal gardens to painting community centres.

The 'In Touch with your Community' framework is used by every store to make an annual pledge to enhance lives in its local area. It covers five elements:

  1. Delivering Marks & Start and Make Your Mark placements 
  2. Fundraising for a local charity
  3. Volunteering with a local project as part of a national campaign
  4. Donating food surplus including chilled food to local organisations with support from our partner Neighbourly 
  5. Supporting our national strategic partnerships locally  (e.g. Breast Cancer Now and Royal British Legion)
Bringing these five elements together has improved our focus on local impacts. For example, when possible we now ring-fence funds raised through national partnerships to support local needs. Macmillan Cancer Support, Royal British Legion and Newlife are national partners that prefer to spend the money they raise in the area where it was donated.

UK retail is currently experiencing rapid and significant changes. Partly as a consequence of out of town shopping centres and online retail services, many town centres now need revitalising. We’re supporting Business in the Community’s (BITC) Pride of Places Strategy. We have been strong supporters of their Business Connectors and Healthy High Street campaigns, by providing senior management secondees from our business. Both programmes aim to address social and business needs by creating thriving communities and high streets. We also know our space on the high street can be a useful resource for the community, by 2025 we want 50% of our mainline stores to make their space available for community groups, charities and local interest groups to use.

Through M&S Energy we run our Community Energy Fund to enable more communities to generate renewable energy and become more environmentally and financially sustainable. We award funding to renewable energy projects in Great Britain which can demonstrate they have the support of their local community.
Inspiring millions of customers to help good causes

Every time a customer shops with an M&S Sparks Card, M&S donates 1p to a charity of their choice. To date, collectively over £3 million has been donated to 10 charities to help the causes they support.

We have a goal to raise £25m by 2025 for charities supporting people who are affected by either cancer, heart disease, mental health, loneliness or dementia. 

As a diverse retail business, no single charity partner can help us address pressing issues in society. We do however aim to work with fewer charities than in the past and build more effective strategic partnerships with those that address the needs that our employees and customers care about.

We ask leadership teams in our business units to decide what they want to achieve with customers and what they can offer potential charity partners in terms of money, specialist skills, awareness raising or space in our stores. Through the strategic partnerships they forge, we can address the concerns that resonate with customers and employees.

Macmillan Cancer Support – no one should face cancer alone. That’s why Macmillan Cancer Support is there for everyone affected by cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. Macmillan Cancer Support is a constant source of support, giving people energy and inspiration to help them take back control of their lives. We’re proud to be the headline sponsor of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Our employees take on challenges and fundraising, pulling out all the stops to inspire and involve customers too. Thanks to the boundless enthusiasm of all who participate, we’ve raised more than £14m since 2010, to fund vital Macmillan services in local communities across the UK.

Breast Cancer Now – Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s newest and largest breast cancer charity. It was created by the merger of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Campaign. It funds critical research into the disease, and has a clear ambition – to make sure no women die from breast cancer by 2050 or sooner. We’ve worked with this charity since 2001, raising an amazing £26m through product sales and employee and customer fundraising. The funds raised have supported The Generations Study, the world’s largest and most comprehensive study into the causes of breast cancer. Because of this study, we know that more women survive breast cancer than 10 years ago and in time, it will also help to identify every woman’s personal risk of breast cancer.

The Royal British Legion – The Legion has helped serving or discharged members of the Armed Forces and their families, for more than 90 years. Every year, the UK expresses its unequivocal support for The Legion's charity work through the Poppy Appeal, which focuses on supporting all generations of the Armed Forces and their families. We’ve worked with the charity for a long time, allowing its volunteers to sell paper poppies in M&S stores or forecourts - an activity which now raises about £1m every year. Since 2012, we’ve also sold Poppy Products - primarily a range of jewellery produced in partnership with the Legion. Sales of this range have raised an incredible over £4m donation so far. All the funds we raise will help to support The Legion's Admiral Nurses who give support to those caring for members of the Armed Forces community affected by Dementia.

Oxfam and M&S launched Shwopping in April 2012, a new idea that made it even easier to give unwanted clothes a second life. So far, 19 million garments have been donated in Oxfam and M&S Shops across the UK and Republic of Ireland, generating an estimated £16.2 million for Oxfam to help fund its work in more than 90 countries. These funds help Oxfam save lives in emergencies, develop projects that empower people facing poverty to take charge of their lives, and campaign for change that lasts. Shwopping also reduces the number of garments sent to landfill.

We also select recipients of funds raised from our charitable Christmas cards from these existing national fundraising partners.

Creating resilient communities in our global supply chain
We launched our Global Community Programme (GCP) in 2014, to drive growth and increased efficiency by establishing partnerships to tackle some of the systemic issues that our suppliers and their local communities face. Our ambition is to become a more resilient business by empowering people in our supply chains to build more resilient local communities. 

We’ve run programmes in our supply chain for many years. We launched the GCP to focus the impact we have and the benefits to our business.

The GCP aims to build resilient supply chain communities. This is on the belief that if suppliers, workers, producers and communities are more resilient, the supply chain is more resilient and our supply for the future is more secure. It should also strengthen our brand, improve quality and drive innovation. The GCP focuses on three aspects:

  • Livelihoods  - an indicator of education, employment opportunities, income, and access to services
  • Wellbeing – an indicator of health, personal satisfaction, and the physical security of workers and local people
  • Environment – an indicator of natural resources, tackling climate change, and energy challenges  
We don’t focus exclusively on specific communities, although a large number of GCP initiatives help the large number of women and small-hold farmers in our supply chain. 

GCP initiatives make strategic sense for M&S and deliver positive impacts for workers and their communities. They include: 

Find out more in our Global Community Programme report.
We also donate unsold clothing, food and unwanted equipment to a range of charity partners including Shelter, Oxfam, Newlife and FareShare.

Our Code of Ethics and Behaviours sets out the key policies and procedures relevant to community engagement. We support a large number of local charities through our 'In Touch with your Community' framework, with stores making donations of up to £50 to local charities, schools and hospitals. We don’t support:

  • Personal appeals on behalf of individual people, including overseas trips
  • Advertising or goodwill messages
  • Political parties
  • Third party fundraising on behalf of a charity
  • Religious bodies, except where the project provides non-denominational, non-sectarian support for the benefit of a project
  • Supplying clothing, other than in exceptional circumstances, as we already donate clothes to Newlife and Shelter
Before we make commitments to respond to a major disaster, we take into account what’s really needed on the ground, the views of our customers and employees, and the whether or not we have strong links through stores, offices or our supply chain to the disaster area.

In 2015, we renewed and retained our CommunityMark status for a further 3 years. The CommunityMark was developed by Business in the Community and is the only UK national standard to publicly recognise excellence in community investment.