Benefits of M&S sustainability go beyond the bottom line

27 April 2012

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28 April 2012 | Adam Leach

Marks & Spencer's work on sustainable procurement has had an impact beyond the company’s bottom line.

In a presentation to the Sustainable Purchasing & Supply Summit in London, Carmel McQuaid, the retailer’s climate change manager, told an audience of buyers that in addition to benefiting the bottom line - through reduced usage and efficiency savings - there were a number of less tangible, but very valuable improvements from sustainable procurement. She highlighted brand preservation and differentiation and future proofing - preparing for declining raw materials and increased commodity volatility - as particular advantages.

The company recently hired actress Joanna Lumley as the face of their ‘Plan A’ sustainability campaign. In 2010, the company delivered savings of £70 million through Plan A, while it reduced waste sent to landfill by 33 per cent and improved energy efficiency by 19 per cent.

McQuaid emphasised the work done by procurement, particularly working with suppliers, as successful components of the programme.

“We’ve been working on Plan A for five years, five long difficult hard years, and much of that has been below the surface in supply chains. And our suppliers were hugely frustrated, especially on the food side, because they do all these things and were saying why aren’t you telling the customer,” she said.

“Because we’ve done all of these things below the line, things which our procurement team have enabled us to deliver, we were then able to recruit [Joanna as] Plan A ambassador.”

Speaking after McQuaid, professor David Grayson, director of corporate responsibility at Cranfield University, said any business that was negligent or indifferent to sustainability in its supply chain was “putting its business future at risk”.

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