M&S: Plan A

M&S is working to weave social and environmental benefits into all of its products over time.  It's what M&S customers expect, and it's an opportunity to grow market share and develop better ways to do business.

The challenge | What they did | The impact

M&S believes that all of its products need to drive purpose, and that sustainability must be mainstreamed into all of the choices

What was the challenge?

M&S is a highly trusted brand, operating in a busy marketplace.  Exceeding customer expectations is very important to the company to differentiate its brand and maintain its success.

Amongst the expectations that customers have is that M&S will do the right thing by communities and the environment, alongside offering a great experience to customers.  Growing customer expectation of transparency around company operations contributes to this.

What M&S did

Continuing the work of its well-known Plan A, M&S has developed and rolled out a process to further embed sustainability into its products. 

To date, 73% of all of its products have a "Plan A Attribute" - meaning that they have an environmentally or socially positive quality, over and above the market norm.  Key to M&S is how it creates its products, and how this is explained to the customer.

Examples include:

  • The 'Pure' range of beauty products, which use waste grape by-product from the UK wine-making industry, utilising its antioxidant properties in a high-quality beauty range.

  • M&S sourcing of sustainable raw materials, such as 100% RSPO certified palm oil, and sustainable cotton, now making up 42% of the cotton used by the company.

  • Offering customers a 'supply chain map' from which they can find out where M&S products are made and source, featuring clothing and food factory locations.

  • A collaboration with eco-fashion queen Livia Firth, for which she curated a range of products with 'Plan A Attributes' in order to raise awareness amongst M&S'

The impact

By taking a holistic approach to mainstreaming sustainability, M&S has identified multiple benefits.

Commercial: Pure is one of the fastest growing beauty brands.

Customer loyalty and trust.  Customer insight shows that M&S customers trust the company to manage on these issues.

Efficient and innovative business models.  M&S has tested circular economy concepts with its product development.

Supply chain improvements.  M&S has made its supply chains more resilient by making them more sustainable, with raw materials affected including palm oil, cotton and wood.

More about M&S

M&S corporate site

M&S Plan A site

M&S profile on the Business in the Community website

Case study: M&S - Farming for the future