M&S makes progress on 'Plan A'

10 June 2013

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Marks & Spencer has forged ahead with plans to educate 500,000 of its supply chain workers in areas such as employee rights, as well as boosting the amount of sustainable cotton used in its products, according to its latest ‘Plan A’ report.

So far, 244,000 workers largely in India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh and China have been trained up in topics such as nutritional education and family planning, financial literacy, employee rights and employment contracts, putting the retailer on course to meet its target of educating 500,000 by 2015.

Other areas of progress include the sustainable sourcing of cotton - M&S hopes to buy 25 per cent of cotton in this way by 2015. Currently, 11 per cent of the cotton used to make M&S products is either Fairtrade, organic, recycled or grown to Better Cotton Initiative standards, up from 3.8 per cent in 2011/12.

The company is also on track to sell half of all M&S products with a ‘Plan A quality’ mark by 2015. More than a billion products (45 per cent) sold over the past 12 months were of Plan A eco or ethical (Fairtrade, carbon neutral, made from sustainable materials or delivering health benefits to the customer) quality, the report showed.

Altogether, M&S delivered on 139 of the 180 commitments made under corporate social responsibility programme Plan A. However, it maintained it faced “big and challenging” targets. These include:

       Meeting sustainable sourcing standards for eight key raw materials

       Ensuring all M&S products have Plan A quality

       Improving suppliers’ sustainability performance

       Engaging customers and employees in Plan A

“We can be very proud of what M&S has achieved through Plan A over the past six years,” M&S CEO Marc Bolland said. “It has made our business more sustainable and more engaging for our customers and employees.

“But we must continue to adapt and step up to the challenge of the world’s climatic and demographic changes. Growing global consumption will continue to put pressure on finite resources, extreme weather is becoming a reality and social pressures, such as youth unemployment, are becoming more acute.”

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