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Environmental risks and social inequality are making the world more complicated and unpredictable. Customers are increasingly aware of their personal impact on the world and businesses must work hard to build and maintain their trust. Growing pressure on natural resources and poor global stewardship may increase our costs, restrict our access to key raw materials and make our global supply chains more volatile.

Against this backdrop, we’re on a journey to make our business more sustainable. We believe a successful business must also be environmentally and socially sustainable. This belief isn’t new. We’ve always maintained that business practices that benefit society improve our long-term performance.

Over the decades we’ve never stood still. We’ve progressed from philanthropy to community investment and onto corporate social responsibility (CSR). We launched Plan A in 2007 to move away from CSR, towards a more holistic approach that addresses all the sustainability issues affecting our business and supply chains. It is a business plan, designed to equip us for a future in which our success in staying relevant for customers will depend on our ability to deliver exceptional products and services in a world that is increasingly resource constrained and experiencing social change. 

Commitments and targets

We're committed to helping to build a sustainable future by being a business that enables our customers to have a positive impact on wellbeing, communities and the planet, through all that we do. 

Ten years ago, we launched Plan A. We made 100 commitments to tackle five big issues - climate change, waste, resources, fair partnerships and health. These issues are still as relevant as ever. They're the beating heart of Plan A. We launched Plan A 2025 in 2017 which strengthens our commitment to address these issues with 100 bold new targets. Crucially, it forces us to address questions to which we don't yet have answers, but must address if we are to become a truly sustainable retailer. Find out more about our Plan A 2025 Commitments


Plan A underpins our unique business model which is enabling us to create long-term value through the effective use of resources and relationships. We manage these in line with our core values of Inspiration, Innovation, Integrity and In Touch. These values influence how we behave and they run through everything we do - they are integral the M&S brand and our promise to our customers: Making Every Moment Special.

We recognise that no M&S product or service can ever be 'special' unless it embodies our unswerving commitment to have a positive impact on wellbeing, communities and the planet.  

We’re making Plan A integral to our all aspects of our business. The table below explains how:

Central coordination

Reporting directly to our CEO, the Director of Sustainable Business oversees and coordinates the implementation, measurement and reporting of Plan A  - with support from a small team of social, environmental and ethical specialists. 

The Plan A team provides support and advice on change management, community and partnership programmes, as well as specialist topics that cut across our business.

Local ownership

Every area of our business is responsible for ensuring that appropriate processes and controls are in place to deliver, monitor and report against relevant Plan A commitments

A small number of Plan A managers and specialists work on key issues (including health and safety and supply chain compliance) in our Food, General Merchandise, Retail, Finance, Property, Logistics, International and HR functions. 

All our stores and offices have volunteer Plan A champions who take on extra responsibility for involving co-workers in implementation of Plan A.

Many of our employees, including Executive Directors and Management Committee members, have Plan A performance targets as part of their personal objectives.

Building capacity and capability

To deliver Plan A we need the right resources and a range of knowledge and expertise. We build this capacity and capability through a number of initiatives:

  • Training our senior business leaders on responsible leadership
  • Integrating sustainability into recruitment and induction programmes and relevant professional and functional training 
  • Providing seed funding for small-scale experimentation and pilots through our Plan A Innovation Fund
  • Supply chain engagement and training mechanisms to help our suppliers become more sustainable
  • Integrating sustainability into performance appraisal systems
  • Continually learning, and looking for opportunities to adapt and develop organisational culture and behaviour

We've captured what we've learnt about the business case for sustainability during the first five-years of Plan A which is available to download below.

Performance incentives
Our Plan A programme has been integrated into our performance appraisal systems. Our Remuneration Committee judges overall performance against our ecological, ethical and behavioural achievements to ensure consistency with M&S’s values and behaviours. Success towards Plan A targets and the M&S values which all employees, including executive directors, are required to uphold underpin the entire Scheme.

At a Board level, the performance measures used in current incentive schemes are outlined in our Annual Report and Financial Statements 2018 (p43, 52 and 53). Our Executive Directors and senior managers bonus is dependent upon the achievement of Plan A KPIs which includes progressing towards our target of ensuring that every single M&S product has a Plan A attribute by 2020.

There are a number of Plan A product attributes of relevance to environmental management and human rights, for example adherence to policies on sustainable raw materials and zero deforestation, our Foods Sustainability Scorecard requires suppliers to demonstrate a very good approach to environmental management, health and safety and employee representation via a worker committee or trade union. Our clothing and home factories wishing to achieve Eco Factory status and Ethical Excellence status must demonstrate that they have good environmental management and world class working conditions and outstanding HR practices in all areas including health and safety, freedom of association and working hours. Find out more about our approach to product sustainability

Engaging transparently with stakeholders

We care about our role in society and our success depends on the support of stakeholders in our local communities.

We believe that trust is established and maintained by doing business in the right way. We also want to be recognised as a leader on transparency in the retail sector.

Our approach to sustainability is largely guided by our stakeholders. We’ve defined effective way to listen to their views and respond. 

Engaging the value chain

As a retailer our biggest impacts on the environment and society come from the food and general merchandise products we sell, and the ways customers use and dispose of them.

We’re heavily dependent on our supply chain to deliver our Plan A commitments. We’re committed to working in partnership with responsible suppliers who can help us deliver Plan A.

We are predominantly an own-brand retailer, branded goods are a very small proportion of what we sell – around one per cent of total lines across the store. Plan A applies to our own products, operations, customers, employees and our supply base, however it does not apply to the supply chains of branded goods. A number of these suppliers do have their own, well respected sustainability programmes, for example Unilever. We work closely with some of these companies, sharing best practice and advice, however ultimately they are responsible for the standards applied to their branded products. 

We are also engaging our customers to make Plan A happen by:

Leading with others to accelerate change

We know we can’t deliver Plan A alone. That’s why partnership is at its heart. We’re leading with others (like-minded business partners, charities, NGOs, academic bodies, governments and local community groups) to accelerate systemic change through external advocacy, thought leadership and practical collaboration.

We’re focused on six areas that we believe are most crucial to delivering our ambitions: 

  • Demonstrating the business case for sustainability
  • Climate change
  • Deforestation
  • Product sustainability
  • Circular economy
  • Enhancing the lives of people and communities

Find out more about how we’re leading with others to accelerate change.

Monitoring and reporting

We prepare internal dashboard reports on a bi-monthly basis for senior managers, to highlight key areas of progress and issues that need to be resolved.

We track overall progress against our commitments at least twice a year. Each business area is required to confirm that any data submitted to the Plan A central team is materially accurate and has been adequately reviewed.

Progress on all commitments is assured in our annual Plan A Report. Those rated as being of ‘high importance to stakeholders’ and either ‘high or medium importance to M&S’ are independently assured, others are reviewed by our Internal Audit team.  

We report on our progress against our Plan A commitments every year, in our Plan A Report. This provides data on each commitment, and a rating of Achieved, Achieved-late, Previously achieved, On plan, Behind plan, Not achieved, or Ongoing.

Sustainability benchmarks and indices

An increasing number of ratings, rankings, indices and awards now measure, compare or reward corporate sustainability performance

We prioritise those that are most relevant for our business and our stakeholders, for example FTSE4Good and CDP. 

Certified social, environmental and ethical standards

Like most major retailers, we use internally developed systems to keep pace in a fast-moving industry. These systems cover training, health and safety, environmental performance and quality.

We’re certified to ISO 50001:2011, the international Energy Management Systems standard for our stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

We were the first retailer to be certified to all three Carbon Trust Standards, which cover Carbon, Water, and Waste Management. This reflects our achievements in reducing carbon emissions and water usage as well as sending no waste to landfill in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

In 2015, we renewed and retained our CommunityMark status for a further 3 years. The CommunityMark was developed by Business in the Community. It’s the only UK national standard to publicly recognise excellence in community investment.

Around the world, stores, offices, warehouses and delivery fleets operated by Marks & Spencer, or in joint-ventures, have also been self certified as carbon neutral in accordance with the PAS 2060:2014 ‘Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality’.


We have a robust governance framework in place for Plan A. This ensures effective oversight and decision-making about strategy, performance, responsibility and accountability.

Our Plan A governance structure

M&S plc Board and Operating Committee
Our CEO oversees our work on sustainability. He is supported by the M&S plc Board and Operating Committee who are responsible for ensuring that every part of our business is clear about its Plan A obligations. The main Board is updated on Plan A at least once a year.

The Board completes a Group Risk Profile every six months. Key social and environmental risks such as climate change are assessed separately, but are generally considered as contributory factors to wider business risks related to the M&S brand and the continuity of our operations and supply chain.

Our approach to risk management is outlined in our Annual Report. Social and environmental risks are outlined in our Plan A Report
Plan A Committee 
Our Plan A Committee meets quarterly to ensure that sustainability is integrated into the day-to-day management and operations of the business. It reviews our progress against Plan A commitments, and the way in which we manage risks. 

Our Director of Sustainable Business, who reports directly to the CEO, chairs the committee, which includes senior management representatives from key parts of our business plus our Head of Sustainable Business and our Corporate Head of Human Rights.

The Chair formally updates the CEO and full Board at least once per year.
Sustainable Retail Advisory Board 
Our Sustainable Retail Advisory Board meets every 6 months to provide guidance and insights. The Board also challenges us to do even better on our journey to become a more sustainable business. 

The Advisory Board includes renowned and respected external sustainability experts. It’s jointly chaired by our CEO and the founding director of Forum for the Future, Jonathon Porritt. 

Lessons learned

It is important to continually reflect on what we've learnt so far in terms of building a business case for sustainability. We believe surfacing the business case is vital both to reassure businesses that the first steps on the sustainability journey can be rewarding, but also to help build the strategy and structures that capture an even more compelling business case in the future.

We've captured what we've learnt about the business case for sustainability during the first five-years of Plan A which is available to download below.

Working with others

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

Many Plan A issues are too large or complex for us to tackle alone, so it is vital that we work with others. Our external partners have already provided solutions, improved our understanding of issues, and helped us inspire our customers.

To give just two examples, Oxfam is helping us encourage clothes reuse and recycling through Shwopping, while WWF has helped us tackle environmental issues associated with water, cotton, wood, fish and sourcing of palm oil.

You can find out about many of our other partners and the issues they’re helping us tackle, on this website.