(Eco) Marks and Spencers: first of many?

Obviously the big CSR news this week has been M&S’ announcement of a significant and, one has to say, pretty substantial plan to reduce their environmental impact. As Xpress Digest reported:

"UK retail giant Marks and Spencer has this week revealed details of a
massive new environmental policy that is set to feature in every area
of its business and ramp up pressure on high-street rivals to go green.
The wide-ranging £200m ‘eco plan’ covers issues such as ethical supply,
renewable energy use, waste reduction and sustainability. Under the
100-point plan, M&S aims to become carbon neutral, eliminate use of
landfill, extend sustainable sourcing, set new standards in ethical
trading and promote healthy living to customers and staff by 2012. The
voluntary programme represents one of the biggest corporate social
responsibility commitments in UK history, and signifies a clear
response to environmental problems."

It’s certainly impressive: you can’t help but view it as a massive green gauntlet being thrown down to its high street rivals…which can only be a good thing, particularly as it comes on the back of such a strong economic recovery (and therefore even more difficult for rivals to ignore). Clearly, it isn’t a cure-all solution, but (as the press release makes clear) there is some really good stuff in there. I’m not talking about the bottles-to-Tshirts stuff (which got a lot of the headlines)…more impressive to me was the commitment to label everything they import by air. And being pragmatic and honest about it: basically saying, "we’re not going to stop importing food by air, but we are going to make it clear(er) to our customers to allow them to choose".

Quite an achievement (endorsed by Greenpeace and WWF!), and it will be interesting to see who follows in their wake…but M&S have certainly got a big leap/advantage from simply being the first to do so on this scale.

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