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It is often said about sustainability that ‘success is all in the delivery’... Well, when your job is in logistics, that maxim is a line to be taken literally.

M&S has already taken pioneering steps in this area: both as the first major UK retailer to become fully 'carbon neutral' back in 2012, plus the first to have received the triple award for achievements in carbon, water and waste reduction from the Carbon Trust.

So, we challenged ourselves to calculate the carbon impact of our end-to-end logistics footprint at M&S – everything from lighting to lorries. To our knowledge, we are the first major retailer to do this. 

Here’s what we found

For all worldwide operations and products, M&S has a total carbon footprint of approximately 8 million tonnes. Of course, with over 1,330 stores in 59 territories, fed by more than 3,000 suppliers globally, actually ‘doing the math’ on carbon means crunching a lot of numbers, with a lot of help.

We collaborated with each part of the supply chain to map out every tier of activity involved in storing, collating and transporting M&S products. We then went out in search of the information needed to calculate the footprint for each activity. 

Bringing these numbers together, our study indicates logistics contributes to approximately 336,000 of the total M&S business emissions. Not surprisingly, transport is responsible for the major part of our logistics carbon footprint (85%), whilst warehousing generates the remainder (15%).

Carbon Footprint Info Graphic

What action did we take?

So, armed with the facts, we have already made changes in both our transport and warehousing operations that are reducing our emissions.

In transport, as the data tells us 60% of our footprint comes from road-vehicle movements, we targeted carbon reduction in two key ways:
  • Increased the use of double-deck trailers – able to haul up to 50-70% more stock, this allows us to reduce trailer numbers on the road, delivering major savings on fuel consumption; and
  • Rolling-out driver performance software – a benefit of 2.3 litres of fuel saved per hour is expected in our GM fleet, through reduced idling, smoother acceleration and breaking, plus increased use of cruise control to cut consumption.
For warehousing, data indicates 88% of carbon is generated from electricity, so here we used this information to support investment in technology projects, such as:
  • The world’s largest solar panel, generating around 5 million kWh of electricity a year for our Castle Donington site – enough to power 1,600 UK homes, with zero carbon impact; and
  • Passive Infra-Red (PIR) lighting in manual warehouses, with sensors to turn lights on and off, plus adjust for levels of natural light – resulting in a 50% cut in carbon.

What’s next?

As you can see, these very different projects – from a major installation, to a programme of minor improvements – illustrate the range of routes open to us on the road to an ambitious carbon reduction. 

Looking to the future, we will continue to find innovative ways to reduce the carbon footprint in our supply chain.

The blog above highlights just some of the key findings from our study so far. For readers keen to learn more, a detailed Summary Report will be released at the end of February 2016. This will explore the relationship between logistics and carbon in much greater depth, providing further figures for performance and additional analysis of the data.