Article 13 criteria for selection:
Highlighted by The Climate Group as demonstrating best practice in addressing climate change.
Turnover: £8.3 billion
Core Service: UK's leading retailers of clothes, food, home products and financial services.
Employees: 66,000 full and part-time staff
Vision: ‘To be the standard against which all others are measured’
Measuring the impact of the retail sector on climate change is relatively new. Direct operations, in terms of stores and lorries/ distribution account for less than 10 percent of the company’s carbon footprint.
Energy and fuel usage whilst representing only a small proportion of the total carbon footprint, is significant enough to warrant action. In much the same way as other retailers, M&S deals with large commercial outlets and their associated energy usage. To address this issue, operational energy use is monitored using a central system that tracks consumption, and alerts stores when inefficiencies arise. Stores also carry out monthly energy audits, and run an energy saving incentive scheme, rewarding stores with the monetary equivalent of energy savings made.
The key driver for operational energy usage is in cost reduction and as such sits under the banner of compliance. HCFC refrigeration in store is also being phased out, primarily to reduce ozone gases and improve energy efficiency, again an example of compliance.
It is in the supply chain however where M&S identified its significant climate change impact.
It is in addressing climate change impacts within the supply chain that M&S focuses the majority of its attention. Supplied by over 1500 organisations, emissions relating to manufacture and transport amount to over 2.6 million tonnes annually. Using the ISO14001 environmental management standard, M&S has created a process to enable its suppliers to take a step by step approach to addressing environmental impacts. The greater the impact of the supplier, the more steps it must go through to achieve the required standard.
Food miles analysis is also used to complement the standards approach, a concept which factors the transport implications of products (in this case food), into supplier and sourcing decisions.
Lifecycle analyses are also conducted for 95 percent of the company’s products, focusing particularly on energy usage from manufacture, usage and disposal. One finding for example highlighted that 80 percent of the footprint from the company’s clothing range was as a result of washing and ironing. As a result of this, M&S introduced a lower wash temperature for its clothes, to 40 degrees. M&S is in many ways ahead of the curve on this issue, since most retailers still consider such impacts as the responsibility of the consumer.
The M&S new Lifestore home furnishing division, is set to bring fresh challenges in sourcing, with an additional 450 suppliers, many using wood in their products. The company has identified sustainable sourcing as a key priority here, and has partnered with the Tropical Forest Trust who are set to help suppliers improve their wood sourcing.
Waste from packaging and products
Recognising the growing problem of landfill, and associated methane and CO2 emissions, M&S began investigating sustainable uses for recycled clothing, as well as testing different types of plastic bags to reduce its contribution to the 10 billion plastic bags disposed of in the UK each year.
An innovative solution to the clothing issue was found in donating all rejected clothing items to a charity, the Birth Defects Foundation. Sustainable reusable shopper bags have also been successfully trialled across the country.
Throughout the process to improve waste and packaging impacts, M&S has been in dialogue with packaging and product suppliers, local government and environmental groups to try and address the solution and make further improvements. Food packaging is next on the company’s agenda.
- Reduction in CO2 emissions for 2003/04 to 350,000 tonnes, from 360,000 tonnes in 2002/03
- Five percent year on year reduction in energy usage
- Energy life cycle assessments for 95 percent of products
- Reduced emissions from lowered wash temperature of clothes (with a potential to reduce UK CO2 emission be an estimated 0.25 percent as a result of this)
- The introduction of reusable shopping bags
- A 10 percent target for the purchase renewable electricity
Despite significant success, the company readily admits that there is a need for a coherent climate change strategy, bringing all initiatives under one joined up strategy. The very encouraging thing however, is that company is taking positive action to address climate change issues not just in its own backyard, but others as well. This represents a significant benchmark for others in the industry to follow, and acknowledges climate change not just as a reputation risk, but as a long term issue of business survival.
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© Article 13 - 2005