M&S Plan A pledge could slow down retailer

Marks & Spencer’s extension of its Plan A sustainability commitments is set to save the company millions of pounds but could have major implications for its supply chain.

While retail analysts broadly welcome the initiative, they question whether the strict commitments will make the retailer less nimble and put more pressure on its suppliers.

M&S aims to be “the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015” and has launched a raft of new ethical and environmental commitments to achieve it.

For example, all 36,000 M&S product lines will carry at least one sustainable or ethical quality, such as being Fairtrade or organic.

Observers say the plans could prove extremely challenging, as could achieving full traceability of all supplier raw materials.

Verdict senior retail analyst Sarah Peters says: “M&S is relying on its sourcing and suppliers, a lot of which are on the other side of the world, making it difficult to keep track of them. There is a risk that M&S could be slowed down by having to put all these [sustainability] procedures in place.”

However, M&S head of sustainable business Mike Barry says there have been no such problems to date. He adds that it is likely that Plan A will become more consumer-facing and of more help to brand perception, as so far only 15% of the 100 commitments have offered good stories to tell to the consumer.

Steve Kelsey, sustainability expert and strategic innovations director at Pi Global, questions the approach and says, “From a brand perspective, M&S could be over-associating itself with sustainability. Does it make sense from a long-term brand perspective to associate with something that has no differentiation – everyone is ’doing’ sustainability?”

However, brands such as Coca-Cola believe consumers want to hear about their sustainable initiatives.
So far, M&S has met 46 of its original 100 commitments, announced in January 2007.

Latest from Marketing Week

PLEASE SIGN IN OR REGISTER. IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and inspiration that will help you develop as a marketer and leader.

Register and receive the best content from the only title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work, so we can make Marketing Week more relevant to you.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team and columnists will ask the biggest questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we will be your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Dedicated to developing your skills and helping you achieve marketing excellence. Find guidance on leadership, professional development and the latest industry jobs.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here