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We’re only a fraction of the way along our journey to becoming a sustainable business.

We started our Plan A journey seven years ago. Whilst the health of the economy has waxed and waned around us ever since we have never wavered in our determination to deliver our commitments nor from our view that building a sustainable business will take many years and will require many phases in the Plan A journey.

The first phase of Plan A in 2007 saw us make 100 commitments to reduce the social and environmental footprint of our business across all that we do, 100s of stores and 1000s of supply chain locations. In 2010 we entered a second phase with 80 new commitments and a goal to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer. This saw us integrate Plan A into our management processes enabling us to capture a significant business case.

And now we’re entering the third phase, Plan A 2020 – click here for more information and here for the full report. Still 100 commitments but there is a change of emphasis. Plan A 2020 is all about engagement, of our customers, our employees, our suppliers. Why?

Plan A 2020 is seeing us shift our thinking, from improving today’s business model to imagining what a very different, truly sustainable M&S might look like in the future. We cannot yet define fully what this sustainable model will look like (a number of our commitments focus on understanding and testing new ideas) but one thing we do know is that we cannot shift from today’s business model to tomorrow’s without the full engagement of the vast majority of our millions of customers, 86,000 employees and 1,000s of suppliers.

So how will we engage?

For our employees we have always made Plan A one of the ways we do business. Going forward we’re embedding it even further into our business by putting it at the heart of the four principles which will guide all that we do at M&S:

  1. Inspiration – We aim to excite and inspire our customers at every turn
  2. In touch – We listen actively and act thoughtfully;
  3. Integrity – We always strive to do the right thing
  4. Innovation – We are restless in our aim to improve things for the better.

For our customers we know they don’t just want an ethical range in the corner of the store. They expect a simple brand promise from us that we will strive in everything we do, every product we sell, to offer the most sustainable option possible.

We also know that many of our customers and employees see environmental and social issues predominantly through the lens of their immediate lives. Before we talk about the whole planet we need to show how we’re helping them improve their local neighbourhood, not just in London but in Shanghai, Mumbai and Paris too.

We’ve been working hard with our international business to roll out Plan A in the more than 50 countries where we have retail businesses. We cannot treat this roll out as a standard set in London to be complied with elsewhere. We have to build the local capacity in our teams to work with their customers, employees and stakeholders on what matters to them locally. Plan A as a global framework but with local application.

So Plan A 2020 retains the best bits of what we’ve done before. It is a business plan, focused as much on customer, employee and supplier engagement as on what we do and how we do it. By aligning social and environmental outcomes with our business goals in this way we believe we can deliver greater value for all and achieve our goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer.

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