Helping our local communities by doing more with our surplus food and waste
Reducing food waste remains a key priority for Marks & Spencer – whether it's across our supply chain, our distribution centres and our stores, or helping our customers to reduce food waste in their own homes. That’s why when we launched Plan A 2025 in June, we set ourselves an ambitious new commitment to make sure that every piece of food unsold in our stores at the end of the day goes to human consumption by 2025. This forms part of our overall aim to become a zero-waste business by the same date.
In May, we shared the news on our blog that we had added chilled food including meat, dairy, poultry and prepared meals to our surplus food scheme at 130 M&S stores. Today, we are pleased to announce that we are starting to roll out our chilled food donations to all our stores* nationwide, following the positive response we’ve had from the stores and charity partners in the trial.
Through our partnership with Neighbourly, the social network for good, each M&S store is already enabled to donate surplus food that hasn’t been sold at the end of the day to local charities and people in need. This includes, but is not limited to, fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes and groceries like pasta, cereal and cooking sauces.
Since May, we’ve seen our seen our overall surplus food donations increase by 11% and we have now donated 1.6 million meals since our partnership with Neighbourly began. We’ve also seen some really encouraging results at a local level. For example, at M&S Yeovil, one of the first M&S stores to donate chilled food, the partnership with the Yeovil Community Meals Service has gone from strength to strength with surplus food donations increasing by 43%. Whilst there is still much more to do across our network, by extending chilled food donations to more stores, we aim to make more unsold food available for those in need.
We also know that when it comes to supporting our local communities there is more to do than just donate our surplus food. In addition to the redistribution scheme, our colleagues are also building stronger relationships with their local community groups through activities like volunteering or fundraising for their charity of the year. By being more engaged we can better understand where else we can help.
Together with Neighbourly we wanted to see what other surplus items our charity partners could benefit from. Their feedback was clear – with 92% of our charity partners telling us that they would also like to receive non-food donations, with cleaning and laundry products and toiletries the most requested products.
As a result, in a retail first on the Neighbourly platform, we are now asking all of our stores to donate any surplus non-food items such as those that that may have damaged packaging but are still fit for purpose. In addition to our regular food surplus food donations, everyday items we will donate include batteries, bags, plant pots, cleaning and laundry products, air fresheners, personal care items and pet food. Through these donations, we will be able to help our local communities by enabling them to focus their funds on their core activities.
As a predominately chilled food business, extending chilled food donations and adding non-food donations from all our stores is an important step in progressing with our Plan A 2025 zero-waste ambition. However, we are not complacent and will remain restless as we continue to look at new ways to address the level of waste we generate in the first place, and where there is edible food surplus, ensuring it goes to a human mouth by 2025.
*Does not include franchise M&S Simply Food stores such as railway and BP stores