What are other companies doing on sustainability?

M&S Plan A Marks and Spencer launched its ‘Plan A’ – named because ‘there is no plan B for the environment’ – in 2007, aiming to achieve 100 sustainability...

M&S Plan A

Marks and Spencer launched its ‘Plan A’ – named because ‘there is no plan B for the environment’ – in 2007, aiming to achieve 100 sustainability commitments by 2012. Plan A 2020 was introduced in 2013, with a further 100 targets.

Aimed at making the company more environmentally sustainable, Plan A 2020 includes engaging with employees, suppliers and customers, and investing in innovations to reduce the firm’s long-term impact.

Plan A’s director Mike Barry says: “If there is one overarching lesson from the first seven years of Plan A, it’s one of humility. We won’t change the world alone; we can’t even change our own business alone.”

To that end, last month Marks and Spencer joined Collectively, a new coalition of global brands and non-profits – including BT, Coca Cola and Unliver – which is described as “a new global movement to engage millennial consumers (18-30 year olds) around the world in a new approach to consumption.”

Waitrose Way

Waitrose, part of employee-owned retailer John Lewis Partnership, is guided by a sustainability strategy it calls the ‘Waitrose Way’. 

This includes support for charities and reduction of its environmental impact. The strategy also requires the business to work closely with farmers and stock Fairtrade products, British and regionally produced goods, and organic products. In 2012, the Waitrose Way Awards were introduced to highlight the most sustainable suppliers.

CEO Mark Price says: “Customers care about the way you deal with suppliers and that’s in our DNA. Every area of the business is now behaving more ethically, and because of that we have had a fantastic run. We have the most loyal customers because we do things customers think are right.”

Unilever’s Living Plan

One of the world’s largest manufacturers, Unilever, produces goods from Bovril to Vaseline. One of the most active companies on sustainability, in 2010 it developed the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which has become a leading strategy.

Its goals, by 2020, were to help a billion people take action to improve their health, halve the company’s own environmental footprint and enhance the livelihoods of millions as the business grows.

Reviewing the plan in 2013, it identified further goals, which involved fairness in workplaces across its supply chain, gender equality and support for small-scale farmers and retailers.

Perhaps most interestingly, the review also pointed to the limited role that any one business, however large, can play in bringing about significant change.

The company has added three further targets which it believes will help bring about systemic change: working to eliminate deforestation from supply chains; championing sustainable agriculture and smallholder farmers; and improving hygiene through handwashing, safe drinking water and sanitation.

Unilever’s chief marketing and communication officer, Keith Weed, says the company aims to embed sustainability right across the organisation.

“One of the first things I did when I took the CMCO job was to cancel the CSR department,” he said. “Everything they did we now embed into our brands, helping to give them purpose and depth.

“At the same time it avoids the dilemma that companies struggle with –of having marketing in one corner selling as much as it can, communications in another corner showing pictures of products helping starving children, and sustainability in another corner trying to save the planet – all working in isolation, rather than together.”

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