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By RL Expert Leesa Soulodre

RL EXPERT Leesa Soulodre interviews Paschal Little, Head of Technology at Marks and Spencer
The retail industry has hit a tipping point. Years of difficult economic times have brought into rapid focus changing consumer behaviours. Today’s consumer has significantly different views on social values, how we treat the environment and what promises their product and service should deliver on than ever before. Minor incremental adjustments to a store’s format or portfolio will no longer be enough to survive. Retailers today need to radically rethink how they do business if they’re going to adapt to the new economy.
Marks and Spencer appear to have been making good progress. After five years of ‘Plan A’ it has achieved 138 of its sustainability commitments and now boasts that the company has become more efficient and innovative whilst also benefiting society and the environment.
However, the biggest challenges still lie ahead, particularly in manufacturing. Paschal Little, Head of Technology at Marks and Spencers shares his insight with RL Expert on just how this can be achieved.
LS. Paschal, what is the main issue?
Paschal Little: Over the next five years M&S will grow from being primarily a UK based store retailer into a multi-channel international retailer. This transformation requires a seamless approach to sustainability across all areas of the business. Implementing new business models necessitates more resilient and transparent supply chains.

To this end a program has been put in place to work with our suppliers on a series of best practice programs and factory standards for sustainability. Anyone can build a green factory from scratch with enough money, but what about an existing factory that has been in operation for 30 years?
A factory owned and operated by Brandix that is used by M&S for the production of casual
loungewear and clothing is a 30–year old factory that was using relatively high amounts of energy and water. This is partly because it is based in Sri Lanka, where the sub-tropical climate means air conditioning is needed throughout the year. Key opportunities for savings were identified by the Brandix and M&S environmental teams including the use of rainwater for washing, WC flushing and watering of the gardens, as well as sorting and recycling waste. It was converted to reduce energy use by 40%.
LS: What are the Results?
PL: Today, there’s been around a 70% reduction in water use and a 75% reduction in the amount of carbon emissions created. The energy reductions are mainly thanks to a new, lower energy air conditioning system, and by increasing daylight in the factory, so fewer lights are needed. In addition, the factory is working towards the ultimate aim of sending no waste to landfill. Brandix is also continuing to push recycling. The team audits suppliers, and has already reduced the factory’s food waste.
LS: Do you have any accreditations?
PL: The refurbished factory project started in 2007, it opened in April 2008 and is now accredited with a leadership in energy and environmental design [LEED] rating. It is the first factory in the world to receive LEED platinum status - the top level certification for energy efficiency and overall environmental impact awarded by the US Green Building Council.
LS: What else have you accomplished in your efforts to increase sustainable practices?
PL: One year after opening, many of the features used in our three ‘green’ stores were made
standard in all of the M&S new and refurbished stores. The three stores were selected to reflect
the diversity of our retail portfolio, including a new retail development (Pollok), a new Simply
Food (Galashiels) and an existing high street store (Bournemouth).
Sixty percent of the innovations used on these sites now feature widely across M&S stores
including: energy efficient lighting, displacement ventilation, and a number of water–saving
initiatives including self closing taps and dual flush toilets. Our Shanghai store also has an
emphasis on sustainable design. The store has been built with sustainable features such as
energy efficient lighting and environmentally friendly double–glazed wall paneling to reduce
heat transfer from outdoor to indoor, as well as water saving toilets.
LS: How is M&S inspiring as a thought leader to industry?

PL: We always wanted the model factory to act as an inspiration to our other key suppliers – and it has. Many of them have visited the factory, been impressed by the efficiencies achieved there, and are now drawing up plans to develop their own ‘eco’ factories, either in their existing buildings, or in new locations. To date, M&S suppliers have opened one new ‘green’ factory and refurbished three existing facilities.

We also worked closely with our suppliers to assess the environmental impact of the materials
we use to build and fit out our stores. This insight allowed us to develop a Sustainable Construction Manual with the Building Research Establishment which has been distributed to all of our design and construction contractors.
LS: What is Plan A?
PL: In 2007, M&S published its original 100 Plan A commitments with a 2012 deadline to address three global challenges: increasing pressure on our planet’s finite resources, rising social inequality and the need for healthier, more sustainable lifestyles in the developed world. We had five broad objectives: to become carbon neutral, send no waste to landfill, extend sustainable sourcing, set new standards in ethical trading and help customers and employees lead healthier lifestyles. In 2010 we added 80 new commitments, extending some of the first 100 and added two new headings – “Involving Customers” and “How we do business” with a new 2015 deadline. We also declared our aspiration to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015.
LS: What’s the return on investment?
PL: Over the past five years M&S has proven a strong business case for sustainability in
the fashion industry, with GBP 185 million in net benefits from Plan A made available to be
reinvested back into our business over the last five years. These financial benefits as well as the social and environmental progress we have achieved so far are based on the strides made in integrating sustainability into how we run our business. This integration provides a strong framework of governance and a strong sense of ownership across the business.
LS: Has the industry recognized your achievements?
PL: Since launching Plan A, we’ve received more than 100 sustainability awards, including the
Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development.
LS: Five years ago, industry players were saying this could never be done. How has M&S achieved this?
PL: This progress would not have been possible without the involvement and support of our
customers on a range of social and environmental campaigns, our colleagues’ actions on community, energy efficiency as well as recycling, and our suppliers’ help in developing new standards. Forum for the Future, WRAP, WWF, Business in the Community as well as many other vital partners have all been instrumental in our achievements.
This interview was published in the March 2013 issue of RepRisk Insight, an ESG Risk publication co-founded by RL Expert and its partner RepRisk AG for the financial markets and their investee multinational corporations.
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