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Marks & Spencer’s ‘Plan A’ to Yield Increased Supply Chain Transparency

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Marks & Spencer (M&S) revealed plans to make its ‘Plan A’ sustainability platform stronger, more agile and global. The revised Plan A 2020 initiative builds upon the original launched in 2007 to improve the company’s sustainable practices across its supply chain. In a major step toward realizing the plan, M&S added a commitment to publish an annual list of its active clothing manufacturers by 2016 to create supply chain transparency for its consumers and stakeholders.

The British multinational retailer said the revised 100 commitment plan retains and strengthens M&S’ previous eco and ethical efforts and extends them to all of M&S operations worldwide for the first time. M&S operates 455 stores across 54 international territories in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The U.K. is home to 798 stores.

The manufacturer list is just one of the highlights in the plan focused on sourcing with the highest environmental and social standards in the company’s history. The company also aims to procure 50 percent of its cotton from sustainable sources, and M&S revealed plans to invest in research to better understand the carbon footprint of its multi-channel global retail operations.

Other highlights of Plan A 2020 are designed to accelerate the company’s mission to put the circular economy into practice and operate a zero carbon business, including a goal to have 50 percent of the energy used in stores in the U.K. and Ireland come from small-scale renewable sources by 2020. M&S is also working toward a solution to reduce water usage by 35 percent in its stores and offices.

To further spread its mission, 100 executives will be trained in sustainability to ensure each M&S’ international employee receives Plan A 2020 training. In another component, M&S aims to inspire customers to live a more sustainable life. The company plans to implement graphic symbols on products to highlight its Plan A qualities. Currently, more than half of M&S products now have at least one Plan A quality, a year ahead of the 50 percent by 2015 target. Plan A quality products can be sustainably sourced, made in an eco factory and Fairtrade.

Mike Barry, Plan A director, said, “Plan A 2020 is a sustainable business plan focused on customer, employee and supplier engagement. We’ve formally included our international operations in Plan A for the first time and put Plan A at the heart of our business principles. By aligning social and environmental outcomes with our business goals in this way, we believe we can deliver greater value for all and achieve our goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer.”

The initial Plan A was launched in 2007 as a 100-commitment, five-year plan to transform the way M&S operated and sourced its products. In 2010, M&S added 80 new commitments to the plan with 2015 and 2020 deadlines. Since its implementation, M&S has become the first retail to receive triple award of certification for achievements in carbon, water and waste reduction from the Carbon Trust. The company has also received the silver sustainability benchmark now that 85 of its top 100 clothing suppliers now operate from eco factories.

Marc Bolland, chief executive of M&S, said Plan A has become a vital part of how the company is run and represents a better way of working that materially improves our customers’ experience of M&S. “Once again we have made 100 commitments comprising of existing, revised and new targets with our sights set on significant progress in the next few years,” he added.

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