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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

When we launched Plan A back in 2007 we made the commitment to have carbon neutral operations by 2012, which was achieved and later extended to include all M&S operations worldwide in 2014. In 2017, we also committed to an independently approved science-based target to further reduce gross emission from our operations as well as cutting 13.3m tonnes of CO2e from our wider value chain. 

Approach

The gross (Location-based) emissions from M&S global operations in 2019/20 were 338,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Down 47% against the 640,000 tonnes from when we first started to measure it in 2006/07.

The 2019/20 Market-based calculation of emissions which allows deductions for renewable energy was 195,000 tonnes, down by 70% against 2006/07. Under our approved Science Based Target, designed to keep global warming well-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 were the first 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. To reduce these emissions we're working with a range of partnerships including WRAP's Courtald 2025 programme and Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) as well as the global Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

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 2019/20 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.



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.

Buildings 
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.

Energy efficiency
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. 

In the UK and the ROI we achieved a 44% improvement in energy efficiency between 2019/20 and 2007.

Refrigeration

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

In the UK and Republic of Ireland we've reduced refrigeration emissions by over 70% since 2007. 

We’ve switched to the use of carbon dioxide instead of more damaging HFC gases in all new UK and Republic of Ireland refrigeration system installations.

Low carbon technologies

We’ve installed one of the UK’s largest single roof mounted solar panel array, at our Castle Donington distribution centre, PV solar panels at eight stores and a small number of biomass boilers.

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
We participate in the UK's Sustainable Clothing Action Programme (SCAP) which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of clothing sold in the UK by 15% by 2020. We also take part and encourage our suppliers in the Higg Index to help improve environmental performance with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. We're also members of the Canopy Planet programme to protect forests through our choices of fabric.


In 2019/20 all the cotton used to make M&S clothing was sustainably sourced - resulting in reduced carbon footprints.

Food products
We participate in WRAP's Courtauld 2025 programme and the newly launched (June 2020) Meat in a Net-Zero World Initiative. We also work with the Forest Stewardship Councul, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS).


Find out more about how we're protecting forests and reducing deforestation.

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 aimed to deliver 100% of cotton from more sustainable sources by 2019, which we achieved, 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 our products

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.
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.

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. We’re collaborating with the Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Leather Working Group, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Roundtable Responsible Soy, and The Sustainability Consortium, WRAP and Canopy to improve product sustainability.