M&S to start shouting louder about sustainability work

Marks & Spencer is to start sending all its marketing managers on sustainability training as part of a wider push aimed at communicating more effectively with consumers on the sustainability work it does.

Marks Spencer

The retailer says it is just starting to develop a training programme that will include details on “sustainability and green claims”. It aims to roll out the scheme by the end of 2016.

The move comes as M&S updates its Plan A green strategy to take it through to 2020. The revised programme includes plans to make sustainability part of its mainstream marketing and communications activities, with the results expected from the summer.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said at a recent event to announce its results that M&S needed to “communicate better outwards” all the work it does and start talking to customers. However, he ruled out any high-profile marketing campaigns, saying it would be about the information it puts on labels and in-store, a “refresh” on what it is currently doing.

That remains part of the plan, with M&S planning to put more “graphic symbols” on its products and website to highlight “Plan A qualities” beyond the work it already does on promoting its cruelty-free products by 2015.

Now, however, the retailer also plans to integrate Plan A into how it “markets and communicates the M&S brand”. An M&S spokesperson says the retailer’s agencies are already working on what that will look like, with the first results expected in the summer.

The marketing push is aimed at helping M&S achieve its goal of engaging 3 million customers in its sustainability programme by 2020, an update on the 1 million target it set itself for 2015. It also plans to step up its healthy eating marketing by increasing the level of recognition and awareness of its “Eat Well” range and talking with external stakeholders, such as charities and food groups, to define best practice on promoting healthy food.

In its annul report, also released today, M&S says it plans to shift its marketing focus from speaking to current customers to attracting new ones. Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, M&S’s marketing director, says the brand will do this through making its communications “relevant and inspiring”, continuing to improve the store environment and building on the role of M&S.com as a publishing platform.

“Even though we have over 34 million customers, there are many more people who we should appeal to. If the past year has been about restating our values to core customers, next year is about reactivating a love for M&S among lapsed customers and attracting new ones,” he adds.