Marks and Spencer is a major British multinational retailer with over 700 stores in the United Kingdom and 361 stores spread across more than 40 countries. It specialises in the selling of clothing and luxury food products. Marks and Spencer’s launched Plan A in January 2007 and set out 100 commitments to be achieved by 2012. In 2010, Plan A was extended to include 180 commitments to be achieved by 2015, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer. Through Plan A Marks and Spencer’s is working with customers, the public, and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, and trade ethically. According to Marks and Spencer’s, “We’re doing this because it’s what you want us to do. It’s also the right thing to do. We’re calling it Plan A because we believe it’s now the only way to do business. There is no Plan B.”
During the first five years, 5 million people took part in Plan A activities which range from online pledges, to participating in river clean-ups, to supporting the Prince of Wales’s START sustainability project. For example, in June 2011, as part of Plan A Marks and Spencer’s launched Forever Fish, using the profits from sales of food carrier bags to help people learn more about fish and supporting marine conservation activities. By 2014, Marks and Spencer’s aims to show 400,000 primary school children just how important it is to protect the earth’s fish species.
In addition to these sustainability education and activities, Marks and Spencer’s has a dedicated Plan A website broken into two streams, “What we’re doing” which focuses on internal Marks & Spencer’s programs, and “What you can do” which focuses on public engagement. “What you can do” includes information on recycling, sustainable purchasing, and measuring an individual’s carbon footprint. In addition, as part of their “What you can do” program on their Plan A website Marks and Spencer’s encourages the public to commit to Fair partner pledges. Pledges fall under seven different categories ranging from difficult to hard and include such actions as investing ethically, growing your own compost, washing your clothes on cold, and buying Fairtrade coffee. Once individuals are registered, Marks and Spencer will track their pledges and send reminder emails to reaffirm pledges. Marks and Spencer’s aims to help one million people develop personal sustainability goals through the website by 2015 and three million by 2020.
This commitment is behind the CEO’s belief that “Driving business efficiency will continue to be important but over the next few years, everyone involved in consumer products will have to respond to the growing demand for resources from a global population that reached seven billion last year and is projected to exceed eight billion sometime after 2020.” This underlies Marks and Spencer’s effort to promote sustainability and sustainable lifestyles to the public.