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Marks & Spencer Ups Better Cotton Use in Sustainability Strides

Marks and Spencer (M&S) is making strides in the amount of Better Cotton it sources. In its Plan A 2020 sustainability commitment half-year update released on Tuesday, the U.K. retailer announced that 28 percent of M&S cotton—or about 50 million product sold annually—is now grown to meet Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) standards. Products include underwear, school uniforms, dresses and bedding.

Better Cotton is kinder to the environment as it is grown using less fertilizer, less water and fewer chemicals and earns more money for the farmer by reducing input costs and helping them manage crops better, the company reported.

With 63 percent of M&S products now made with a Plan A attribute, meaning it possesses an eco or ethical quality above the market norm, Plan A director Mike Barry said the program is making an impact on M&S operations across the world and engaging its customers, employees and partners in more sustainable lifestyles and ways of doing business.

“It is helping us stand up and take action on the sustainable retail challenges of today and tomorrow. Our products are becoming more sustainable, we’re testing new technology that could transform our future operations and we’re supporting causes that make a real difference to the future for our customers and the local communities we operate in,” Barry said.

Among the other achievements made during the plan’s first six months was the initiation of clothing exchange programs in Hong Kong and the Czech Republic. Customers can bring unwanted clothing to M&S stores, which will then be distributed to local charities for recycling, re-use or re-sale. The exchange will be established across more international markets next year.

Up next, the retailer plans to roll out LED lighting in every M&S Food Hall (about 300) over the next two years. M&S introduced the energy and cost saving lighting systems in a trial store back in 2011 and have since tested LED lighting in 12 other stores. In the trial stores, energy was reduced by 20 percent.