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Forests constitute the world’s largest and most important ecosystems, and contain the largest reservoir of plants and animals on land. Rainforests store the most carbon by area, are of most value to disadvantaged communities, and contain greater biodiversity than almost any other type of forest. Yet these are the forests mankind is depleting most rapidly year on year, as the result of illegal or badly managed logging and land conversion for agriculture, including the cultivation of soy, palm oil and cattle.

The demand for timber is expected to triple by 2050, which will make it increasingly difficult to obtain. Wood is an essential commodity for M&S. It provides the base material for many of our products - most notably furniture, but also many others, including tissues, hairbrushes and greeting cards. We couldn’t package our products, even run our business, without wood materials, so we appreciate the vital importance of forests and timber plantations. 

M&S recognises commodity agriculture as a major contributor to forest loss, with an estimated 50% of tropical forest loss being associated with palm oil, soy and wood-pulp plantation development and cattle ranching. However, these commodities can also play a valuable role in promoting sustainable livelihoods, agricultural productivity and good land management, so we do not believe prohibiting their use is the best way to address deforestation. We aim to exclude deforestation from our own supply chains while working with others to promote good land management and sustainable production practices at a landscape level. 

Approach
We want all of our palm, soy, cattle, wood and wood-derived materials to come from the most sustainable sources and ensure that the fabrics we use in clothes and home products don't come from ancient and endangered forests. We actively support restoration and conservatin solutions for these natural resources. 

We’ve made major investments in programmes to tackle deforestation and promote sustainable forestry.

Our supply chain is complex. We don’t own farms or factories and don’t purchase ingredients and commodities directly. Most of our ingredients and commodities are sourced in a global market. In some supply chains it’s possible to engage directly with growers - for example, our furniture manufacturer operates near to both forest and saw mill. But in other supply chains, particularly those that are more complicated (for example, paper products that are made from lots of different species) or in the case of commodities that we use in relatively small quantities (for example, palm oil) our ability to control and influence is more limited.

Our approach to protecting forests focuses on: 

Progressively sourcing all the timber and wood fibre used in our products and operations from the most sustainable sources and ensuring that the impact of fabric sourcing on forests is understood and addressed
Establishing clear minimum standards on solid wood and wood-fibre
Together with forestry, sustainability, and industry experts, we’ve developed a clear policy to ensure wood is consistently sourced across our business. This policy applies to all aspects of our business use of wood which is within our sphere of influence. We have adopted a collaborative approach to sourcing wood fibre used in textiles (see below).

Our highest priority is to ensure that through our sourcing:

  • Wood is legally harvested
  • Forests with High Conservation Values (HCV) are protected
  • Plantations from natural woodland are avoided
  • The traditional and civil rights of people and communities are upheld 
All our suppliers are required to comply with our Global Sourcing Principles and acknowledge the right of indigenous people and rural communities to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before new logging rights are allocated or plantations are developed. We recognise the unique social and environmental value of Intact Forest Landscapes and support activities designed to protect and enhance these areas.

In 2019, 89% of the wood-based materials we used were Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, recycled or from sources assessed as otherwise protecting forests and communities. The majority of our wood-fibre is FSC certified. This is our preferred certification scheme. We will purchase non-certified wood if we have sufficient evidence that forests and communities are protected (or that the risk of this is low). We also encourage the use of wood from secondary sources (reclaimed, reused or recycled).

Our policy reflects the many different ways that we use wood. For example, in construction materials and food packaging it’s ambitious but achievable to demand 100% FSC certification, but when sourcing materials such as clothing tags from India, or Christmas decorations from China, it’s almost impossible to enforce the same requirement. This flexibility doesn’t mean a lowering of standards; it reflects our determination to find deliverable solutions.

Guaranteeing that wood meets our standards isn’t easy. We recruit independent technical experts to carry out our wood policy assessments, and we’ve developed ways of working that ensure the wood we source meets our policy requirements.

We also try to find out more about our supply chains so we can improve our understanding of the root causes of non-compliance.

Compared to others in our industry we’re small-scale procurers, and our influence is limited. We support supply chain partners who commit to improve, but if they consistently fail to meet our requirements we will cease trading with them.
Working collaboratively with stakeholders
For more than 20 years there’s been consistent effort to improve the sustainability of timber sources, with some of the most advanced third party standards and greatest legal safeguards now in place through the EU Timber Regulation and other legality schemes. However, credible forest certification schemes such as FSC, still account for only a small fraction of the market.

We’ve been a member of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network (now Forests Forward) since 2004. We participate in the FSC solutions group, which comprises major multinational forestry companies, WWF, Greenpeace, and the FSC leadership team. We’re a member of the British Retail Consortium’s Timber Working Group and engage with the Tropical Forest Alliance  (a public private partnership between the Consumer Goods Forum and the US Government) which is now hosted by the World Economic Forum. We also work with the Rainforest Alliance, to understand and address the challenges of sustainable forestry and agriculture, particularly in the tropics.

We’re using our relationships with the FSC, WWF, Rainforest Alliance and other non-profit and standard setting organisations, as an opportunity to work collaboratively with other stakeholders (retailers, processors, growers and others who might otherwise never discuss issues collectively) to argue the case for a more sustainable approach to wood production and harvesting. Working with these organisations doesn’t provide all the answers, but does allow us to to specify and guarantee standards to a certain extent, despite our inability to directly intervene in every supply chain relationship.
Sourcing wood-based fabrics
As the use of forest fibres in fabrics increases, we're working to reduce the impact our sourcing has on forests.

We’re committed to working with industry and civil society partners to spark a shift to more sustainable supply chain practices that ensure protection of the world's remaining ancient and endangered forests and endangered species habitat through our Man-made Cellulosic Fibre Responsible Sourcing Policy.

As a proud partner of the CanopyStyle Initiative, we're committed to:

  • Ending the sourcing from ancient and endangered forests, endangered species habitat and controversial sources 
  • Supporting lasting conservation solutions
  • Promoting the use of next generation alternative feedstocks that have a reduced environmental footprint, such as recycled textiles and agricultural residues from food production
We’re also part of the CanopyStyle Leaders for Forest Conservation Group, providing vision, strategic insights, inspiration and active leadership for our world’s forests.
Identifying, understanding and taking action on commodity-driven deforestation in our supply chains, with a specific focus on palm oil, soy and cattle that comes from a forest risk region
Palm Oil

Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil across the world and is found in many products across food, household and beauty. As an oil, it has the highest productivity and requires less than 50% of the land that other crops need to produce the same volumes. However, over the years its efficiency has led to unacceptable practices such as high levels of deforestation and peatland drainage, and human rights issues faced by local communities and workers. To ensure we don’t contribute to deforestation we are committed to sourcing palm oil sustainably, for which we set out our minimum standards in our M&S Palm Oil Policy. In 2020, 100% of the palm oil used in M&S products was Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified.

We are active members of the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition and are working to transition palm oil in M&S food products from mass balance to segregated status. In 2020, 75% of the palm oil used in M&S products was RSPO Segregated and 25% Mass Balance. Though our goal was to reach 100% RSPO Segregated status, the availability of segregated palm oil derivatives and fractions continues to be a challenge in our non-food supply chain. To reach our target, we are continuing to work with suppliers and peers to increase the demand for RSPO segregated status.


To help improve standards and encourage their implementation, we participate in the Retail Palm Group and Consumer Goods Forum’s Palm Oil Working Group. We lead the European Retailer Traceability Coalition and are a member of and sit on the RSPO Board.

Soy
Soy is a globally traded commodity produced in temperate and tropical regions. It’s a key source of protein and vegetable oils, used mainly to add unique nutritional benefits to animal feed.

Despite industry efforts and some notable success stories, soy still contributes to deforestation in South America, although at a lower rate than previously.

We aim to source soy that doesn’t contribute to deforestation, but tracing this ingredient is difficult as it’s traded on a global market and source farms are difficult to identify. At present, only very limited quantities of certified soy are available.


The majority of the soy we use is found in the animal feed of our livestock, and to ensure we don’t contribute to deforestation we have a goal of sourcing all soy from approved or recognised sustainable soy schemes, including the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS) credits and ProTerra Foundation.

We’ve supported the sustainable production of soy through the purchase of RTRS credits or via our direct supplier procurement to a deforestation free production standard for 100% of the soy in our supply chain from South America. 

From 2020, our focus has shifted to ensure that 100% of our soy is sourced from verified deforestation free regions by 2025. To achieve this we work collaboratively throughout the sector via the Cerrado SoS Group, UK Roundtable for Sustainable Soy, the Retail Soy Group and the Soy Transparency Coalition - a new organisation we helped to create to assess key soy traders’ performance. 

In 2021, we also joined 39 other companies to write to Brazil’s National Congress encouraging them to reject a legislative proposal that could open up the Amazon for deforestation. 

As part of our protein diversification strategy, we are exploring alternatives to soy-based animal feed through the M&S innovation programme. In 2020, we worked with our 44 British farmers that produce M&S RSPCA Assured milk to replace soy feed with alternatives such as rapeseed oil and sugar beet – avoiding nearly 4,000 tonnes of soy being used each year. We’re also working with pig and poultry suppliers (where the vast majority of soy is used) on projects exploring alternative protein sources and the reduction of soy use as a whole.

Cattle Products
The growth in cattle-ranching for beef products and leather is the key cause of deforestation in Latin America, with around 70% of deforestation in Brazil attributed to cattle. Cattle are commonly part of a cycle of land use change associated with agricultural expansion. The region of greatest deforestation associated with cattle rearing is the Amazon biome - therefore we class regions and countries that border the Amazon at risk of deforestation.

We source beef and leather products to sell to customers and use beef products in our employee catering facilities. Our goal is to end sourcing of products that contribute to deforestation.

The volumes of Brazilian beef and leather used by M&S and the numbers of products that depend on them are much are much smaller than palm oil or soy. As a result, our activity in these spheres reflects this lower brand risk and leverage. Additionally, local and international efforts in beef and cattle are less developed than in palm oil and soy, so there are fewer programmes for us and our suppliers to participate in and support. 

We promote integrated approaches to cattle and soy related deforestation in Brazil through our participation in the Consumer Goods Forum and the Tropical Forest Alliance.


Beef

We know our beef sourcing doesn’t contribute to deforestation because we only source from the UK and the Republic of Ireland (for our Irish stores). All our beef is DNA traceable so we can trace each pack back to the individual animal and farm it came from. You can find out about our farmers on our interactive map.

Leather 

We apply rigorous standards to our leather and any suppliers sourcing leather from South America must verify that it does not come from cattle reared in the Amazon biome.

We ask all leather product suppliers to annually disclose the country of slaughter of all our leather. This allows us to understand our sourcing footprint and to verify our policies are being followed. 

If leather is being sourced from deforestation risk regions, we required that suppliers must either:

1. Demonstrate the route for supply has avoided the use of cattle reared in the Amazon biome through the following:

  • A public commitment to prohibit the use of cattle reared in the Amazon biome by the slaughterhouse
  • GPS mapping of supplying farms to demonstrate avoidance of cattle reared in the Amazon biome
  • Policies to remove suppliers who do not meet these standards

OR

2. Participate in multi-stakeholder, industry or regional schemes that help companies to avoid the purchase of cattle from the Amazon biome if the data from such schemes is made publicly available or audited by an independent third party. 

A public commitment to meeting the Minimum Criteria for Industrial Scale Cattle Operations in the Brazilian Amazon Biome (also known as the Cattle Agreement or G4 Agreement), which aims to stop deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, would meet M&S criteria.

Supporting market transformation through collaboration with industry partners and other stakeholders
Leading with others to accelerate change

We can’t achieve zero deforestation worldwide alone, so we’re working with others. These include the Consumer Goods Forum, which comprises many of the world’s leading food manufacturers and retailers. We’re also working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Round Table Responsible Soy, and the Leather Working Group, as part of our efforts to remove commodity-driven deforestation from all supply chains.

We also have systems in place to comply with the EU Timber Regulation that prohibits placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the European market.

We take into account four guiding principles in our approach to this issue:

  • Stewardship – promoting the value of independent certification standards and verification, alongside a clear aspiration to move to more sustainable landscape level management
  • Transparency – to encourage a high level of transparency within our supply chains and as a component of land management policy 
  • Resource Efficiency – to encourage continual improvement in productivity and resource management within agriculture and through the supply chain to reduce our reliance on virgin materials
  • Innovation – to promote innovative practices and a greater understanding of the opportunities offered by developing a more circular economy
We report annually about our performance improving the sustainability of wood and forest commodities in our Plan A Report.

We also submit data annually for the four forest risk commodities that make a biggest yearly impact on deforestation (timber products, palm oil, soy and cattle products) to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s forest programme and share our progress towards sustainable sourcing through our Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) annual reports.

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

We’re collaborating with many partners to help protect the world’s forests. We’re working with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Rainforest Alliance, Greenpeace and WWF, to improve our own standards and argue the case for a more sustainable approach sustainable forestry and wood sourcing. We’re partnering with Strategic Environmental Consulting to improve our assessment and reporting approach. And we’re working with Canopy, to improve the sustainable sourcing of wood-based fabrics.

Through the Consumer Goods Forum we’re engaging in global efforts to tackle deforestation, and we’re collaborating with the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), and the Leather Working Group, in support of our goal to remove commodity-driven deforestation.