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We launched our sustainability programme Plan A back in 2007, because we knew then there was no Plan B for our planet. Fast forward 15 years, and we’re still facing a climate emergency that demands urgent action.

This year’s Earth Day is a timely moment to reflect on how we all need to ‘invest in our planet’ to secure our future.

Last year, we reset Plan A with a singular focus on becoming a fully net zero business across our entire supply chain and products by 2040. This won’t be an easy task and to achieve it, we need to invest in finding innovative solutions, working closely with our colleagues, customers and suppliers. 

Investing in our products

We know our customers care deeply about the environment; our recent Family Matters Index showed it is the top concern for UK families, so we need to transform how we make, move and sell our products. 

When it comes to fashion, we’re driving more sustainable sourcing and production. We’ve launched our most sustainable denim collection yet, switching all denim to more sustainable indigo dyes which use 86% less water compared to the industry average and 100% responsibly sourced cotton. Earlier this year, we also unveiled our first capsule collection as part of The Jeans Redesign, responsibly sourced to meet guidelines set out by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and including a minimum of 25% recycled cotton.

We’ve removed over 75million units of plastic packaging across our food business over the past year, through steps such as removing plastic lids and excess plastic from our fruit and vegetables. In Clothing & Home, over 1 billion hangers have been diverted from landfill through our hanger reuse programme, where customers can leave them at our till points or return them to store.

More than 87% of our packaging is easily recyclable and we’re also helping our customers to be more sustainable through our Plastic Recycling Units for hard to recycle plastic, now available across 500 of our stores.

Investing in the future

We’re championing renewable energy across our business - 100% of electricity in our UK stores and offices comes from renewable sources and we’ve installed LED lighting, aerofoils and night blinds on fridges outside of trading hours to help reduce energy consumption. 

Building on the success of our clothes recycling scheme Shwopping, which rewards Sparks customers and has seen over 35 million items donated to Oxfam since its launch in 2008, we’re also working with new companies equally committed to the circular economy and finding new solutions. 

We’ve launched our first clothing rental trial with Hirestreet, with the feedback from our customers overwhelmingly positive so far, while our trial with dotte, the UK’s first fully circular kidswear peer-to-peer marketplace means parents can buy, sell, donate and recycle outgrown kidswear. 

Investing in people

When it comes to people, we want to help our customers and colleagues spark change and be rewarded for living a lower carbon life. Our Sparking Change challenge, based on a behaviour change trial with environmental charity Hubbub, helps families make the food they eat greener, healthier and more affordable with free expert tips and resources available on our website focusing on reducing food waste, cooking from scratch and exploring plant-based protein.

We’re also harnessing the ideas and enthusiasm of our colleagues through carbon champions across the business and our Suggest to Steve suggestion scheme, as well as establishing a Green network where colleagues can share ideas and inspiration. 

We’re already seeing the impact our colleagues are having, particularly in reducing food waste. Across our stores, colleagues are working closely with our partners Neighbourly and using smart technology to ensure M&S food doesn’t go to waste, with over 36 million meals so far donated to over 1,400 community organisations. 

We know there is work still to do in building a sustainable future, so we’ll continue to invest in our people, our products, the future – and ultimately our planet. Find out more here.