Find out about our approach to supporting communities
We listen to our customers, colleagues, and local stakeholders to make sure we understand their changing needs and are best placed to support the communities we serve. This dynamic of listening and responding has existed across our 130-year history and forms a key part of our heritage. Today, we continue to take action on issues which our customers and colleagues care about; ranging from health and social inclusion, through to local community.
By listening to and working with our stakeholders worldwide, we identify shared objectives for our programmes and assess the mutual social, environmental, and business value which partnership and collaboration brings. From neighbourhoods in Bristol and Manchester, to those in Mumbai, our approach is both global and local.
We work with a series of strategically chosen partners on a wide range of issues. Many are long term partnerships that have grown and developed over time. Our partnerships operate on different scales to achieve specific goals. Our aim is to deliver mutual value and make an impact.
Here is an outline of some of our key charity partnerships:
Breast Cancer Now – Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity. It funds critical research into the disease and has a clear ambition – to make sure no women die from breast cancer by 2050 or sooner. We’ve worked with the charity since 2001, raising an amazing £32.7 million through product sales and employee and customer fundraising. Together we also developed our inclusive post-surgery lingerie range, to allow women to be comfortable whilst they rest and recover.
Macmillan Cancer Support – No one should face cancer alone. That’s why Macmillan Cancer Support is there for everyone affected by cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. We’re proud to be the headline sponsor of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. With the help of Colin the Caterpillar, our employees take on challenges and fundraising, pulling out all the stops to inspire and involve customers too. Since 2010 we have raised £21 million to help fund vital Macmillan services in local communities across the UK.
The Royal British Legion – The Legion has helped serving or discharged members of the Armed Forces and their families, for more than 90 years. Since 2012, we have also sold Poppy Products - primarily a range of poppy jewellery produced in partnership with the charity. So far, we have raised over £9 million, funds which help to support The Legion's Admiral Nurses, who give support to those caring for members of the Armed Forces community affected by Dementia. We’re pleased to also welcome volunteers in M&S stores or forecourts to sell paper poppies - an activity which now raises about £1m every year.
NHS Charities Together – NHS Charities Together works with a network of over 240 NHS charities across the UK to provide the extra support needed to care for NHS staff, patients, and communities. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic responded to the acute concerns from colleagues and customers about the increased pressure on the NHS and the wellbeing of our NHS heroes. Through the sale of our ‘All in this Together’ T-shirts, Rainbow Bags, and percentage donation from our Rainbow Sale, we raised over £8.4 million for the charity during the pandemic.
Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity – GOSH Charity supports the hospital to deliver world-class care for some of the UK's most seriously ill children and give patients the best experience possible. Over the last 10 years we have donated more than £3 million to GOSH Charity through a variety of activities such as our Taste Buds food range and Sparks partnership. The donations have helped fund pioneering research into child nutrition, support services, such as GOSH’s Play team, and paid for a bedroom in GOSH's Mittal Children’s Medical Centre. We also supported GOSH through the pandemic, by providing items such as fresh food and meals for GOSH staff.
Shelter – Shelter exists to defend the right to a safe home. They offer advice and support services for those facing housing issues and homelessness, fund research, and campaign to change the housing system. We have partnered with Shelter since 2005, raising £13.5 million through various activities including our Shelter Festive Food-on-the-Move collection, Sparks partnership, and clothing sample donations, helping in-part to fund calls answered by Shelter’s free national helpline.
Together for Short Lives – Together for short lives wants to help every child and family living with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition get the very best care and support they can. In 2020 we set ourselves the goal to donate £1 million to the charity. By hitting our target we have helped the UK’s 54 children’s hospices to continue their incredible work in the communities where M&S staff and customers live and work.
Every time a customer shops with Sparks, M&S’ customer loyalty scheme, M&S donates 1p to a charity of their choice – part of our Sparks pledge to make good things happen every time a customer shops. There are 35 Sparks Partners who span four themes; Children & Young People; Health & Wellbeing; Social Inclusion; and Environment, Wildlife & Animals. In September 2021 we celebrated reaching £10 million donations to our Sparks charities since 2015 – meaning we donated our billionth penny.
Being a good neighbour is important to M&S. Many colleagues across our stores and offices are active members of the community and want to support causes locally to where they live and work. There are a number of ways that colleagues can take action:
Fundraising – In each of our stores, colleagues can select one local charity to fundraise for across the year, which raises approximately £1 million each year for local causes. We also offer payroll giving to colleagues.
Volunteering – We know how important community involvement is to our colleagues, so everyone is entitled to one day's paid leave per year to volunteer at their choice of organisation. We also run company-wide volunteer weeks, where 4000-5000 colleagues volunteer with approximately 450 community organisations up and down the country. Projects range from organising tea parties for local elderly people, to revamping community gardens. Colleagues also give back through school tours, school talks, and wider town centre engagement.
Food Redistribution - We believe M&S Food is too good to go to waste. We work with Neighbourly to link our stores up with a network of more than 1,400 community partners who collect daily donations of surplus food. Donations include fresh fruit and vegetables, grocery items and bakery goods - in 2020/21 we donated 11.8 million meals to those in need.
In 2017 we delivered a pilot to understand how M&S can play a deeper role in supporting local communities. We concentrated on ten places across the UK from Glasgow to Liverpool, and Rochdale to Newham. We trialled new initiatives and learned about taking a ‘place based’ approach to solving key challenges in the community through working with local authorities, civil society and other businesses. Our CEO Steve Rowe, chairs Business in the Community’s Community Impact Board to support wider collaborations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Across the M&S international business, our partners are active in supporting their local communities – from India, to The Czech Republic and Greece, as well throughout the franchise partner network.
Our community engagement strategy is ever evolving to meet the changing needs of our customers, colleagues, and local communities, but our commitment to support the communities we serve remains ever present. As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re reflecting on the changing needs of society, and will be resetting our community programme for 2022.