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Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges the world faces today. Its basic mechanics are well understood – the earth is warming, mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans, with potentially damaging consequences. The challenge is to take effective action to address the issue.

Every human activity has a carbon footprint. We all need to cut emissions to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. No company can hope to prosper in a world where we continue to plunder resources and pump CO2 into the atmosphere at the rate we are today. And there are practical considerations for our business: energy costs, the availability of raw materials, new markets and new legislation. 

Commitments and targets
We support the introduction of a strong, legally binding global agreement that will provide the long-term certainty we need in order to make major investment decisions about how best to reconfigure our business model to a low carbon one.

Climate change has always been a Plan A priority. In 2007, when we launched Plan A we had 29 targets to tackle climate change. Since then we've led the way in becoming more efficient, reducing our absolute operational carbon footprint by 75% and making our global operations carbon neutral to accelerate climate action. In 2017, we made a bold new (approved) science-based target to further the efficiency of our own operations as well as cutting 13.3m tonnes of CO2e from our wider value chain. We are committed to invest in carbon offsets for our own global operations in order to remain carbon neutral - we believe we're still the only major retailer in the world to do this.

We’re taking action on climate change across our entire value chain. Our carbon footprinting analysis has highlighted the need to focus not only on our stores and logistics, but also on reducing emissions from our supply chain and from several of the basic activities our customers use our products for, including cooking and disposal of food, and washing and drying clothes.

We need to reduce our carbon footprint by avoiding emissions in the first place, reducing those that are unavoidable, and switching to lower carbon technologies. Lastly, we also need to compensate for unavoidable or residual emissions.

It’s clear that our climate is already changing, and our business needs to be able to cope with extreme weather events. We believe forward planning is key to minimising the threats and maximising the opportunities created by evolving climate impacts. 

The gross (Location-based) emissions from M&S global operations in 2018/19 were 360,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Down 44% against the 640,000 tonnes from when we first started to measure it in 2006/07.

The 2018/19 Market-based calculation of emissions which allows deductions for renewable energy was 158,000 tonnes, down by 75% against 2006/07. Under our approved Science Based Target, designed to keep global warming below 2 degrees, we're aiming for further reductions of 80% by 2030 and 90% by 2035.

In addition, at M&S we go even further by offsetting those remaining emissions to give zero net emissions, known as carbon neutrality. We believe we are the only major retailer in the world to do this. 

But we know that our carbon impact goes beyond our operations. Once our supply chains, business partners and customers activities are added to the calculation our total footprint is around 6.5 million tonnes of CO2e. Under our science based target, we'll also be working with partners to reduce value-chain emissions by a total of 13.3 million tonnes by 2030.

In 2013, we became the first retailer to receive certification to the Carbon Trust Standard for our achievements in carbon, water and waste reduction.

We report our greenhouse gas emissions annually in accordance with UK government and international corporate greenhouse gas reporting guidelines. This data is independently assured and submitted annually to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Read our 2018/19 climate performance report for more detail on how we review risks, costs and regulations associated with climate change and our actions and performance since 2007.

Find out how we’ve integrated climate change and sustainability issues into our management and governance systems.

Our approach to climate change focuses on:

Understanding and taking action on our greenhouse gas emissions through avoidance, substitution or compensation measures
Avoiding or eliminating emissions
Our first priority is to reduce or eliminate emissions at source. This is where the most significant carbon benefits can be realised by reducing embodied impacts and improving energy efficiency. By embodied impacts we mean the resource and energy inputs in the manufacture, transportation and delivery (to the point of use) of a material, product or service – and improving energy efficiency.

We aim to design our buildings in ways that minimise carbon emissions and energy demand, over and above what’s required by legislation. The design and construction related activities that most influence our emissions are:

  • Location, orientation and design of our stores
  • Transportation of materials, goods and people
  • Energy sources we use to provide heating, cooling and electricity
  • Generation of waste and methods of disposal
  • Choices we make for our building and fit-out materials
Embodied carbon in materials like steel, concrete, and tiles, significantly contributes to the carbon footprint of store retrofits and construction. We aim to address the carbon hotspots we can control or influence – particularly walls, ceilings, and floors.

We’ve changed our standard specifications for ceilings, switching to low carbon designs wherever possible – for example, in our Sevenoaks and Bexhill stores.

We’re currently looking at ways to reduce carbon in walls and floors through our work on Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM has the potential to facilitate 'lean' construction, helping us reduce site waste and use materials more precisely.

We’ve commissioned research to improve our understanding of the carbon footprint of our multi-channel retail operations in the UK and internationally. We’re working with Accenture, DPD Express Parcel Delivery, and Woodway Packaging, to identify any opportunities to improve efficiency in our multi-channel retail operations.

Our efforts to prevent and manage waste responsibly are helping us reduce our emissions. In the UK and the Republic of Ireland we’ve reduced our total waste by more than 31% and sent no waste to landfill.

We’re taking steps to avoid food waste in our stores, by using daily price reductions to clear short-life products. We’re working with a number of charitable organisations (Company Shop, FoodCycle and Neighbourly) to redistribute surplus food to a wide range of charities that cook for those in need and are on the frontline of dealing with food poverty. 

We’re a signatory of the Waste and Resources Action Programme’s Courtauld Commitment and have been progressively improving the environmental efficiency of our packaging. We’re also taking action to reduce transit packaging for our clothing, home products, and home delivery items. 

Energy efficiency
Many believe that improving energy efficiency is the single most effective way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. So, we need to use energy as efficiently and responsibly as we can.

We try to make sure store retrofits and construction are as energy efficient as possible. We also aim to procure fixtures, fittings and equipment that meet best practice energy efficiency standards.

We believe we can make significant savings and improve performance through smarter staff engagement. We've introduced our Making Energy Matter campaign to engage, energise, and reward staff for helping us achieve our goals.

Our energy management systems and processes in the UK and the Republic of Ireland are certified to ISO 50001:2011 the international Energy Management Systems standard. The system is integrated with specific energy and maintenance alarm conditions, derived from store building and refrigerated control systems. It tracks store energy use against targets and alarms when consumption exceeds defined thresholds. Our regional energy managers are responsible for identifying energy efficiency issues and implementing preventive and corrective actions.

Refrigeration accounts for around half the energy used in our stores. We’re actively investigating ways to improve the energy efficiency of our refrigeration units (see below). For example, we’re currently conducting trials to retrofit doors on fridges.

In the UK and the ROI, our goal is to improve our energy efficiency of our stores, offices and distribution centres by 60% per sq ft by 2025.

Outside the UK and ROI, we operate or are in joint ventures in 20 countries. Around a third of these international stores’ use energy provided by landlords, which is outside our operational control. We also have a small number of warehouses across the world whose primary function is to support our UK business. In locations that we do control, we aim to improve our energy efficiency by 30% per sq ft by 2020.

Consumption of energy in our international stores is much lower than in our UK and ROI stores as most of them don’t sell chilled food and typically use heating and air-conditioning services piped in from shopping malls.

Transport and logistics
To our knowledge, we were the first major retailer to measure and model the carbon footprint of its entire logistics supply chain in detail – from supplier to store.

Our analysis shows that over 80% of our logistics network greenhouse gas emissions come from fuel used for transport and nearly 20% from warehousing operations. More than 90% of these warehouse emissions come from electricity consumption.

We’re using this information to help us identify carbon hotspots and prioritise projects to reduce emissions. These include actions to ensure that delivery fleets operate efficiently by transporting as much product as possible on each journey. 

We’re committed to reduce store refrigeration gas carbon emissions and phase-out HFC refrigerants.

In the UK and Republic of Ireland we aim to reduce emissions by 80% by 2025 and we’re making good progress. Our reductions to date, come from improved maintenance and introducing less damaging R407a HFC gases in store systems.

We’re switching to the use of carbon dioxide in all new UK and Republic of Ireland refrigeration system installations as part of our commitment to phasing out HFC refrigerants. 

Low carbon technologies
We’re taking steps to introduce renewable and other lower carbon technologies in our buildings and transport. 

New low carbon technologies are often unproven. We’ve created a network of demonstration stores, factories and farms to trial new technologies to determine if they can be scaled up.

We’ve installed and assessed on-site renewable energy generation in a number of stores. 

We’ve installed the world’s largest solar wall of its type, and the UK’s largest single roof mounted solar panel array, at our Castle Donington distribution centre. We've also fitted biomass boilers in our Sustainable Learning Stores at Cheshire Oaks and Warrington Gemini.

We’re currently trialling nitrogen-chilled trailers at our food warehouse in Hemel Hempstead. These trailers use nitrogen as an alternative to HFC gases to provide chilling, but need recharging with nitrogen before they set out on their journey every morning. This imposes some operational constraints, as the trailers have to return to our Hemel Hempstead depot every evening. 

Compensating our residual or unavoidable emissions
All M&S operated and joint-venture stores, offices, warehouses and delivery fleets around the world have been carbon neutral since the 1st April 2013. Find out how we define carbon neutral.

Our carbon neutral status has been self-certified in accordance with the PAS 2060:2014 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality, for the period 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019.

We’ve purchased all the electricity for our stores, offices and Clothing & Home warehouses in the UK and ROI from renewable sources, including a proportion from small-scale renewable sources. Some of the gas we use comes from certified bio-methane sources too.

We’ve sourced a portfolio of high quality carbon credits, from which a quantity equal to gross emissions for the stated period have been retired. See our Carbon Credits Policy for more information.

We’ve committed to maintain carbon neutrality until at least 31st March 2025.

Developing programmes to reduce supply chain emissions
Supplier programmes
We’ve developed a number of programmes to encourage our suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Clothing and home products
Through our Eco Factory Programme, we support factories that want to go further and address additional factors such as water consumption and waste. Products which have been produced in a factory that meets our Eco Factory Audit Standard also qualify for a Plan A product attribute. Factories which participate in independent certification schemes can achieve higher scores. For example, in China we support WWF’s Low Carbon Manufacturing Programme (LCMP), which measures factories’ effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions. And our Westbridge furniture factory in North Wales – the first ever UK factory to gain Eco Factory status – continues to show us and other suppliers how to make sustainability work.

Food products
We’ve developed a sustainability benchmarking scorecard for our food suppliers to improve human resources, environmental and energy efficiency performance. Suppliers are scored on a scale of Provisional, Bronze, Silver and Gold. We’re actively encouraging and supporting suppliers to achieve Silver level and ultimately target Gold. Sites that have attained Silver status have greatly improved their energy, water and waste efficiency, resulting in significant carbon and cost savings. For example, through this programme, 56% of the food we serve today comes from sites that have reduced their energy use by at least 20%.

We’ve identified key sustainability hotspots, such as greenhouse gas emissions, by sector, and are developing plans to manage them through producer and industry engagement. For example, in the dairy sector we’ve ascertained that key sustainability hotspots are: feed, animal welfare, labour standards and greenhouse gas emissions. Working with our suppliers we plan to address these hotspots through our Indicator Farm programme, testing new approaches and techniques to see if they can be scaled up. 

Protecting forests and reforestation
According to WWF, deforestation contributes to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

We have a defined role to play in helping to remove commodity-driven deforestation from all supply chains. We aim to ensure zero deforestation from the use of palm oil, soy, cattle and wood and wood-derived materials in the production of our own-brand products by 2020. We’re working with a number of organisations to achieve this goal, including the Forest Stewardship Council, Leather Working Group, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Round Table Responsible Soy (RTRS).

As part of our ongoing commitment to carbon neutrality we source a portfolio of high quality carbon credits. We support reforestation projects that result in carbon dioxide being absorbed, restore and enhance forests, and support livelihoods. For example, some of the farmers in the Meru and Nanyuki Community Reforestation Project in Kenya (one of three projects we support) are in our supply chain and produce tea and green beans for us.

Sustainable cotton production in India
Many of our garments are made from cotton sourced in India and we aim to deliver 100% of cotton from more sustainable sources by 2019 and by 2025 will aim to have increased the proportion of Fairtrade, organic and recycled sources to 25%. M&S and WWF have identified fertilisers as the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions in cotton cultivation.

In partnership with WWF, we’re working with more than 20,000 farmers in India, who’ve all been Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified

We’re founding members of the Cool Farm Alliance, which developed the Cool Farm Tool to help measure the carbon footprint of crops or livestock products. Through this tool we’ve determined that BCI practices in some regions of India have reduced emissions by 50%, compared to traditional growing practices.

Engaging employees and customers in activities which directly or indirectly reduce emissions
Improving the sustainability of consumer products
We want to help our customers make a difference to their communities and live more sustainable lives.

Over the past eight years, we’ve progressively improved the our products’ sustainability. Our interventions have directly or indirectly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Back in 2007, we were one of the first companies to encourage our customers to lower washing temperatures to 300C, saving around 40% energy per wash. We even introduced labels on our clothing with 'Think Climate – Wash at 300C'. This campaign persuaded 15% of our customers to wash at lower temperatures, saving 50,000 tonnes of CO2e a year.

In partnership with Oxfam, and building on our existing clothes recycling programme, we launched Shwopping in 2012, to encourage customers to donate an unwanted item of clothing every time they bought a new one. Through Oxfam, donated clothes are resold in one of their stores or on their website, forwarded on to those who need it in developing countries, or recycled and used to make new material (which businesses like M&S can make into new clothes). Absolutely nothing goes to landfill. Oxfam uses the money raised to help people around the world overcome poverty.

Working with WRAP’s ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ initiative we’ve helped reduce food waste in the home by improving the design of our packaging and guidance we provide to customers on storage and recipes for using leftovers. This has contributed to a reduction in domestic food waste of one million tonnes – equivalent to two million tonnes of CO2e.

A number of our Plan A product attributes help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – for example, sourcing certified timber, palm oil and soy, optimising packaging and incorporating recycled content in products. The use of Modified Atmosphere Bags to deliver flowers to customers saves water, reduces packaging, maintains flower quality for longer, and improves logistics, both in terms of weight reduction and improved pallet fills.

M&S Energy
In 2008, we launched M&S Energy to provide competitively priced consumer and community energy and gas. M&S Energy is now an approved green energy provider. The energy it supplies to customers is matched with renewable sources at no extra cost.

We’re helping more communities in the UK to generate renewable energy and become more environmentally and financially sustainable through our Community Energy Fund.
Engaging millennial consumers
We’re part of a new global movement called Collectively which has been launched to engage millennial consumers (18-30 year olds) around the world in a new approach to consumption. Collectively intends to enable audiences raise awareness and inspire millennials to adopt a more sustainable way of living.

It aims to inspire positive action on issues like climate change by focussing on the things that millennials feel passionate about – great food, fashion, design, architecture and technology that are also better for people and the planet. For example, our Limited London collection was inspired by Collectively – to bring together fashion and sustainability and make sustainable fashion look good and desirable. Every garment has been made out of a recycled fabric and made in a factory that meets our best practice environmental and ethical standards.
Engaging employees
We have an ongoing programme of engaging our employees on sustainability issues. 

In 2010, we offered free home insulation and home energy monitors to all our employees. In total, 38,000 energy monitors were distributed and 4,000 homes were insulated.

More recently we've recently introduced our Making Energy Matter campaign to engage, energise and reward staff on energy.
Engaging in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help the world move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy
Leading with others to accelerate change
We can’t beat climate change on our own.

Through organisations like the Aldersgate Group and World Economic Forum, we’re pushing for progressive climate policy and a strong, legally binding global agreement.

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 significant contributions our industry makes to climate change – refrigeration and deforestation.

We’re working with a number of organisations, including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Round Table Responsible Soy as part of our efforts to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation in all supply chains.

Through the Consumer Goods Forum we’re working with others to begin phasing-out HFC refrigerants and replacing them with non-HFC refrigerants (natural refrigerant alternatives) wherever these are legally allowed and available for new purchases of point-of-sale units and large refrigeration installations.

Implementing strategies to make our business and supply chain more resilient to evolving climate impacts
Approach to climate risk management
We’ve carried out research into our UK estate and agricultural supplies. Climate risk issues can’t be considered in isolation. To makes sure they’re considered in the context of other risks, we’ve integrated climate risk into our existing risk management processes.

Our overall approach to risk management and principle risks and uncertainties are detailed in our Annual Report
We currently define climate-based issues as relatively low risk.

Store retrofits and new-build projects
We take climate resilience and adaptation into consideration on all our store retrofits and construction projects.

Future climate risks include energy management (increased demand for energy for cooling and security of supply), internal store environment (staff and customer comfort levels), water management (flooding and drought) and building fabric (wind/storms).

We’ve reviewed how our stores cope in hot weather in order to identify for optimising them to enhance energy efficiency and save money. We now plan to develop a strategic climate adaptation plan for both our existing and new stores.

Supply chain
Our supply chains must also adapt to changes in climate.

We need to know where they’re most vulnerable and ensure key suppliers can respond to extreme weather events.

We’re supporting a 2 year project that aims to improve the climate change resilience of the San Juan del Oro coffee cooperative and their 146 participating smallholder farmer members in southern Peru. This Adapt Now initiative is helping products to become more resilient to climate change and water scarcity, enabling farmers to produce a more sustainable supply of triple certified coffee (Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, and Organic).

We’re also working with the Ethical Tea Partnership as part of a wider project to help tea producers adapt to climate change. Using training and demonstrations farms the project is helping local tea and coffee farmers in Kenya to develop climate change adaptation strategies that will improve resilience and yields, limit soil erosion and boost efficiency. Find out more about our approach to sourcing more sustainable tea.

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business. 

We’re working with many different organisations to take action on climate change. The Carbon Trust, WRAP, WWF, and Forum for the Future have all helped us define and measure our carbon footprint. Through the Consumer Goods Forum, the World Economic Forum, and the Aldersgate Group we’re pushing for more progressive climate policy. We’re collaborating with the Forest Stewardship Council, Leather Working Group, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Roundtable Responsible Soy, and The Sustainability Consortium to improve product sustainability. We’ve also helped the UK government to shape climate change legislation.