M&S Shwopping - Changing the Linear Model

In 2012, M&S launched its Shwopping programme alongside Oxfam to address the unsustainable ‘take, make, waste’ economic model for consumer goods. The programme is a closed-recycle clothing scheme that aims to either recycle, reuse or re-sell all unwanted clothes donated to Oxfam.  

Key figures

  • 4.6 million garments came through since the programme launched in 2012
  • Only 1% of donated clothes are incinerated
  • £4.1 million raised for Oxfam

As a clothing retailer, Marks & Spencer was concerned by figures such as:

  • 1/4 of textiles sold in the UK go to landfill

  • 80% of consumer goods overall go to landfill

In response, M&S partnered with Oxfam to deliver a Shwapping programme. The closed-recycle clothing scheme launched in 2012 and encouraged consumers, not just M&S customers, to bring their used and unwanted clothes to their stores or Oxfam shops where they would be recycled, reused or re-sold.

Oxfam’s rigorous and trusted process proved to be an integral part of the programmes success. The clothes that can’t be sold in the UK are often sold in developing countries and in some cases donated to a small SME partner in Senegal.  Other clothes that are not in good enough condition to be sent to developing countries, are graded and broken down into new materials for products, such as car seat coverings or housing insulation.

The programme has already seen incredible results:

  • 4.6 million garments came through since the programme launched in 2012

  • £4.1 million raise for Oxfam

  • Only 1% of donated clothes are incinerated

However, challenges remain as M&S sells approximately 350 million garments a year, making the 4.6 million recovered garments a mere fraction of the problem.

Today, M&S is working to unlock the opportunity for scale by exploring how to re-use the garments to extract the most value and how best to influence customers to bring their clothes back. M&S sees a number of areas in which they can focus their efforts:

  • Reverse logistics in the supply chain

  • Core ingredients to products to ensure they are as reusable as possible

  • Supplier engagement to encourage innovation for a closed-loop economy

  • Customer engagement to make it easy and personal

Over the last few months, M&S has been working with the wider business community to introduce Shwopping at Work – a scheme that gets individual businesses to encourage their employees to bring in their unwanted items for swapping or donating.

Find more information about M&S Shwopping here.