Its commitment to build Plan A into every one of the 2.7 billion individual products bought from M&S each year appears a massive undertaking. But in transforming its packaging systems and processes, the retailer has revisited simplicity, and in doing so has broken with industry norms.
Richard Gillies Director of Plan A, CSR and Sustainable Business Revised: “In just three years we’ve made good progress against our five Plan A pillars – Climate change, Waste, Natural resources, Fair partner and Health and wellbeing – achieving 62 of our original 100 commitments. Now it’s time to move Plan A forward by setting even bolder targets that will involve our customers, employees and suppliers more directly than ever before.”
M&S will enter into additional partnerships to support their customers in re-using or recycling of products and packaging. The company also intends to avoid more waste from the outset, the intention being that nothing needs to be sent to waste disposal sites. They will also cooperate more closely with their suppliers so that they too, can reduce waste and reduce their landfill to zero.
Gillies: “The important lesson we’ve learned is that we can’t do this alone. We don’t have all the answers – but we can learn faster and develop better solutions if we work with partners such as WWF, Business in the Community, Forum for the Future, RSPCA, Oxfam, Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Carbon Trust, BRE consultants and Groundwork.”
More profit with sustainability
“Just as importantly, we’ve learned that improving our sustainability doesn’t have to cost more. On the contrary, there’s a compelling business case for improving efficiency by using less energy, reducing packaging and waste, and creating new markets such as M&S Energy. Together these have generated additional profit of £50m for 2009/10, which has been invested back into the business.”
As M&S pushes for environmentally friendly packaging, the approach is reaping benefits in:
• efficiencies across packaging and operations
• environmental reduction with greener solutions that cost less
• improved control of packaging design and quality for local and overseas production
• enhanced perception from consumers
• accurate measurement of packaging materials and waste
• increased speed to market
• incremental sales and profit.
To improve performance even more, the company is about to roll out an online packaging portal and website to assist suppliers with Plan A compliance:
• a packaging style guide is uploaded to the system
• the supplier searches and downloads the style and information
• the supplier or its packaging manufacturer can then adapt the style to suite specific product dimensions
• the supplier performance tests pack sample, then completes data form and uploads spec for approval
• the spec is approved for style, material and freight use
• an approval e-alert is sent to the retailer, supplier and artworker
• M&S provides a cost-saving analysis.
Marks & Spencer packaging technical manager Gordon Henman: "All of our suppliers will have access to the portal, as well as their packaging suppliers and internal departments, too. It's all password protected and category specific."
M&S's green motivation
While M&S has won awards, such as the UK Packaging Awards 2008 and the Greener Packaging Awards 2009, trophies are not its motivator. "By 2012 our aim is that all of our retail packaging will come from green-rated, certified recyclable sources, working with partners with a carbon-positive history," says Henman.
With M&S's packaging well on course to meet its Plan A commitments, it's not just a cliché: less really does mean more.
Your M&S How We Do Business Report 2010, marksandspencer.com/hwdbreport2010
Pro Carton at Interpack, 12.- 18. May 2011, Please visit us in hall 7a Stand 7aB31. www.interpack.com