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The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  Synthesis Report reminded us yet again of the need for urgent action to reduce emissions by taking action in all parts of our economy. 

This prompted the M&S team to review our experiences in reducing emissions since Plan A was launched in 2007, what we’ve learned and what we need to do next.

In 2007 we estimated M&S operational emissions accounted for about 700,000 tonnes CO2e, but when we took into account our total value chain carbon footprint including products and customer use, the figure increased to about 7 million tonnes CO2e. 

Although an estimate, this analysis highlighted to us that we need to focus not only on shops and logistics but also on reducing emissions from the supply chain and customer behaviour around cooking and food waste as well as washing and drying clothes. 

So seven years on, what have we, together with our suppliers and customers collectively achieved?

    PV Castle Donnington Marks and Spencer
  1. Reduced our operational carbon footprint by 24% 
  2. Improved energy efficiency in our stores by 34% per square foot, which in turn has helped us save £22m from our energy bill;
  3. Reduced GHG emissions from our refrigeration units by 68%
  4. Purchased all our electricity in the UK & Republic of Ireland from green tariff renewable sources of which 28% came from small scale de-centralised sources; 
  5. Invested in the UK’s largest solar roof at our Castle Donington distribution centre; 
  6. Made our operations carbon neutral to help accelerate investment in renewables and programmes to prevent deforestation in the developing world; 
  7. Prevented deforestation by ensuring 96% of our wood comes from responsible sources (with a target to achieve 100%) and 100% of our palm oil is RSPO certified. 
  8. Demonstrated using Cool Farm Tool that the adaptation of Better Cotton Initiative practices in regions of India have reduced emissions by 50% compared to traditional growing practices. 
  9. Raised customer awareness and acceptability of washing clothes at 30 C together with wider industry 
  10. Put all the food factories that supply us on a structured sustainability programme, with 19% of the food we sell today coming from sites that have reduced their energy use by at least 20%.  

In delivering these environmental, social and economic benefits we’ve learnt a lot.

  1. Business case – there’s plenty of money to be saved from reducing your exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices. Energy graph
  2. Demonstration – new low carbon technologies are often unproven. We’ve created a network of demonstration stores, factories and farms to trial new technologies before rapid scale deployment of the winners. 
  3. Preventing waste is a double win – for every 3 months the life of an item of clothing is extended we reduce fashion’s carbon footprint by 10%. Reduce waste, reduce carbon. 
  4. Resilience – despite all our hard work and that of many others climate change is happening and its effects are being felt already. We’ve been working with our suppliers and our stores to make them more resilient to extreme weather – drought, flood etc. 
  5. Working with others – we cannot beat climate change alone. We’re working globally with the Consumer Goods Forum and its members, many of the world’s largest food manufacturers and retailers, to tackle two of the most material contributions the industry makes to climate change – refrigeration and deforestation. 

So where next? Well, we’re very clear there is so much more to do. In retail, this means accelerating progress towards our 2020 targets whilst also better understanding the impact of multi-channel retailing as we re-configure supply chain networks. In product supply chains, it means scaling up action across the whole industry, so it’s not just progressive companies and suppliers but everyone tackling refrigeration, deforestation, agricultural practices and starting to build resilience in vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change. And, in the next critical 12 months in the run up to Paris 2015 negotiations, it means adding our voice calling for a strong global deal.  

Our message will be simple – we support a strong, legally binding agreement in Paris that provides the long term certainty for us to make the major investment decisions to re-configure our business model to a low carbon one.

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