We believe that businesses earn and maintain trust by doing business the right way. And this includes increasing their transparency. We’ve always tried to be open and transparent – both in the information we make public and the way we share it.
One example of this is the independently assured Plan A report
we publish every year, about our sustainability performance. We provide additional information on our website and participate in several external benchmarks, for example the Business in the Community (BITC) CR Index
. We also have one-to-one conversations with stakeholders about specific topics, blog about sustainability regularly and speak at many events.
Technological innovations, changing consumer and social expectations, developments in our markets – all of these may require us to evolve our standards of transparency in future.
Commitments and targets
We want to be recognised as a leader on transparency in the retail sector.
In 2014, we made transparency a key priority in Plan A 2020 by introducing several new commitments. In particular, we committed to engage with our stakeholders to help us understand their expectations concerning transparency. We also committed to provide more information about our approach to product sustainability and our clothing and home supply chains.
We’ve consulted our customers and other stakeholders to help us assess how we’re doing on transparency and identify the issues that matter most to them.
We’ve conducted a small-scale, online survey of sustainability specialists, completed an initial review of what other businesses are doing, and reviewed information from M&S customer research. These all confirmed that different stakeholders have different expectations, which vary from one product category to another. Early in 2015, we commissioned research specialists GlobeScan to undertake further research to help us better understand specific transparency expectations.
The GlobeScan report is available to download below, but its key findings were:
- M&S has strong foundations to build on and there’s an opportunity for us to enhance our communications to drive trust and transparency
- Product and supply chain issues are consistently central to stakeholders’ expectations and concerns
- Customer engagement is important, with expectations about end-of-life use (how products are reused or recycled) and consumption impact (impacts generated by consumer use) set to increase
- Transparency goes beyond data and performance – our stakeholders want more information about how specific issues are managed and how we approach decision-making and governance
- Transparency should not be viewed in isolation – it provides the means to drive action and solve issues
Research confirms that we’re already relatively transparent, but it’s clear that we can do better by making it even easier for stakeholders obtain the information they want. There’s no one-size fits all way to do this because different stakeholders want different information, presented in different ways. So we need to be proactive and agile in the ways we respond to their needs.
We plan to continuously improve the ways we make information available. During 2015 and 2016 we have:
Over the next few years we aim to improve our customer engagement and explore new and innovative ways to make our data more engaging.
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
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
We’ve worked with a number of organisations, including Forum for the Future
, Accenture, Oxfam
, and GlobeScan
, to provide us with insights on our current approach to transparency, and advice about how we can improve it.