We have launched our Sustainability Programme, Plan A in 2007. One of its consistent strengths has been its breadth. Its willingness to fight all social and environmental issues and not ‘cherry-pick’ a few. The other has been its focus on integration, ensuring that sustainability is not the preserve of the few in the center of the business but the responsibility of all of us, in every store, product category, and supply chain.
Nearly eight years on we’re making good progress but we’re very clear that we cannot build a sustainable M&S on our own. We need to see systemic, integrated change around us too. That’s why we’ve been pleased to be part of the Aldersgate Group’s work to outline the principles of An Economy that Works (www.aneconomythatworks.org). An economy that delivers growth but also one that serves the needs of communities and the planet, not just in the UK but globally too.
We’ve already seen with Plan A how economic success (£145m net business benefit to M&S from Plan A last year) can complement the strides we’re making socially (tackling youth unemployment, supporting farmers, working on wellbeing) and environmentally (improving wood, fish and cotton sourcing; reducing waste and energy use).
We believe these balanced successes are often replicated on a national and global scale but we won’t ‘stumble across’ it accidentally. even as Plan A has given M&S a route map towards a more sustainable future so An Economy that Works provides an overview for a national discussion on what’s right for the entire united kingdom.
The good news is that M&S and Plan A aren’t alone. Many businesses, communities, civil society groups, and parts of the state have even as much ambition and learning to share as us. What an Economy that Works can do is provide a framework during which our many individual contributions add up to something that’s quite the sum of the parts and a way of collective direction for our future efforts.