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We launched our Sustainability Programme, Plan A in 2007. One of its consistent strengths has been its breadth. Its willingness to tackle all social and environmental issues and not ‘cherry pick’ a few. The other has been its focus on integration, ensuring that sustainability is not the preserve of the few in the centre of the business but the responsibility of all of us, in every store, product category and supply chain.

Nearly eight years on we’re making good progress but we’re very clear that we cannot build a sustainable M&S on our own. We need to see systemic, integrated change around us too. That’s why we’ve been pleased to be part of the Aldersgate Group’s work to outline the principles of An Economy that Works. An economy that delivers growth but also one that serves the needs of communities and the planet, not just in the UK but globally too.

We’ve already seen with Plan A how economic success (£145m net business benefit to M&S from Plan A last year) can complement the strides we’re making socially (tackling youth unemployment, supporting farmers, working on wellbeing) and environmentally (improving wood, fish and cotton sourcing; reducing waste and energy use). We believe this balanced success can be replicated on a national and global scale but we won’t ‘stumble across’ it by chance. Just as Plan A has given M&S a route map towards a more sustainable future so An Economy that Works provides an outline for a national discussion on what’s right for the whole of the UK.

The good news is that M&S and Plan A are not alone. Many businesses, communities, civil society groups and parts of Government have just as much ambition and learning to share as us. What an Economy that Works can do is provide a framework in which our many individual contributions add up to something that’s more than the sum of the parts and a sense of collective direction for our future efforts.

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