Marks & Spencer plc - Farming for the Future

The Samworth Brothers Rural Action Award, Finalist, 2015

Marks & Spencer has enabled farmers in its supply chain to make their businesses more sustainable and shared its knowledge with the industry as whole, supporting its goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable retailer.

Social impacts

  • Provided farmers with tools and opportunities to make their businesses more efficient, ethical and environmentally aware.
  • Provided educational opportunities throughout the M&S supply base to strengthen future skills in the agricultural industry.
  • Shared best practice on sustainability hotspots by engaging with the supply chain and wider industry.

Business benefits

  • Created supply chains that are more resilient to future challenges.
  • Contributed towards the Plan A goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer.
  • Strengthened relationships with suppliers to ensure security of supply in the future.

M&S Logo - M&S Est 1884The M&S Farming for the Future programme was established to help farmers and growers adapt to the challenges facing the agricultural sector.

100 farms promoting change in agriculture

Competition for land use, climate disruption and resource constraints are forcing farmers to produce more with less. Increasingly extreme weather patterns are also threatening crops and animal feed supplies, while pressure on finite fossil fuels means producers are forced to look for alternative energy sources. The lack of skilled workers entering the industry is another major issue.

Farming for the Future is one of the 100 commitments pledged by M&S under its Plan A 2020 eco and ethical plan. It identifies sustainability hotspots within specific farming sectors and develops plans to manage these with suppliers, then shares knowledge with the wider industry to drive change.

M&S’ network of 200 Indicator Farms have been supported in making changes to their businesses to drive sustainability. This includes independent benchmarking and consultancy support to improve areas such as technical efficiency, health and welfare and nutrient management. This knowledge is then shared with the M&S supply base of more than 4,000 farmers and the wider industry.

Supporting agricultural skills

To address the shortage of talented young people entering the agricultural industry, M&S has set up an education programme. This equips participants with the skills, knowledge and experience they need at several stages of their agricultural careers.

M&S bursaries support students at agricultural colleges, while work placements and study scholarships are offered to students, graduates and postgraduates. The retailer has also developed a five-day M&S Agricultural Leadership Programme to provide management training for young people working in the supply base.

The M&S Farming for the Future programme is about improving the sustainability and resilience of the retailer’s supply chains. Surveys have shown more of M&S’ producers recognise they need to change farming practices to adapt to the pressures they face, increasing from 42% to 53% over the last three years.

Sustainability has been ranked as the number one reason to change for the last three years and 65% of respondents said that M&S had some or a great deal of influence in their decisions regarding environmental impact.

What M&S' Head of Agriculture and Fisheries Sourcing said:

Farming for the Future is an integral part of our work with farmers and an important commitment in the M&S Plan A 2020 programme. By working together with our producers we can help them to meet the many challenges facing the industry. By focusing on sustainability issues now, we can drive change in the industry and create efficient, resilient supply chains for the future. We are very proud of the progress we have made since we started the programme and the positive impact it has made on our producers’ businesses.” - Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries Sourcing