11. 03. 2010

M&S set a sustainable benchmark for the retail world

I spoke at the annual M&S Suppliers’ Conference on Tuesday, which took place in Kensington Town Hall. This venue has a particular resonance for me as it was where the votes for the 1979 and 1984 European elections were counted – and every time I’m back there, I can’t help but recall that sense of consternation that so few people seemed to be prepared, at that time, to put their cross in the Green Party box!

Twenty-six years on and it seemed as if the M&S Suppliers were all voting enthusiastically for the updated version of Plan A! And that was not just because Sir Stuart Rose made a very powerful pitch telling them all that this was their reality whether they liked it or not. By the end of the day, they would certainly have had an unnerving sense of bars being raised all around them, in terms of production standards, transparency, reporting, innovation and so on.

Plan A was launched three years ago, and instantly captured people’s imagination. The combination of carbon neutral and zero waste to landfill pledges, the 100 Action Points, the commitment to invest £200 million, and the sense of all this being at the core of the company rather than being grafted on made an immediate impact. It also gave Plan A the kind of brand profile that took it way beyond the usual corporate responsibility strategies.

Three years on, the £200 million cost has been turned into a £50 million contribution to profit. Forty-five of the Action Points have been delivered, and another 80 have been added on. The ambition level has been ratcheted up several notches, with M&S now committing to becoming the world’s most sustainable (major) retailer by 2015.

Forum for the Future has worked closely with M&S throughout this time, so we are not exactly disinterested parties, but Plan A does provide the benchmark for the whole of the retail world. It’s visionary, it’s applied, it’s comprehensive (as in covering all the sustainability bases), and it’s succeeding in getting whole-company buy-in, through the high level “How We Do Business” Committee, chaired (and driven!) by Sir Stuart Rose.

So it’s well worthwhile checking out the new version of Plan A, available at: http://plana.marksandspencer.com/media/pdf/planA-2010.pdf

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12. 03. 2010
Len Jones

Highly commendable effort by M&S no doubt, but there are a some points we should remember

Firstly Stuart Rose's position ( erstwhile) as CEO and Chairman does not sit well with best Governance practice and has disturbed some stakeholders.

Secondly, I have always been uncomfortable with the Plan A concept and there being no alternatives, the revised Plan A is in fact Plan B because it has altered, a small point but it undermines some of the arrogant thinking that permeates through M&S and their inability to react to external changes unless they have been internalised (and rationalised) first.

Thirdly, I wonder by raising the Bar, as you say how many Suppliers will be forced out of business due to the lack of end consumer buy in to this concept, and how sympathetic are M&S going to be with this issue (maybe sharing the profits of Plan A (revised) down the Supply chain.)

The overarching concern here is that the cynics will say that M&S are following the green zeitgeist and treading a well worn sustainability path, when in fact they are going to leave less resilient suppliers in their wake.I am sure this was a concern at your meeting and I wonder what Plan M&S have to cope with a potential loss of ethical suppliers who may not be as lean and agile as M&S in adopting revisions to Plan A

This is also against a background of general economic lassitude and consumers (maybe) not wishing to pay ethical premiums in prices for everyday commodities.

Good luck to M&S in all this, I just hope they manage to shade their arrogance and be sympathetic to their suppliers dilemma.

Plan A is not just about shareholder value, or is it?

03. 11. 2012
john hopper

m&s treat their small suppliers with contempt and exploit them promising much and not keeping their word Bolland is totally arrogant and is leading M&S to ruin and is rewarded for doing so,he is losing the loyalty of those who are indispensable,the shop staff.All those in charge have no targets and are paid bonuses for ruining small suppliers.Sacking directors and having people in charge with common sense and qualities and not qualifications and making everyone personally responsible for their actions. Bolland couldnt run a whelk stall.he is a useless failure.p8db

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