Marks & Spencer’s Environmental Initiatives

Marks & Spencer's environmental initiatives set an example for other retailers to implement.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marks & Spencer’s environmental initiatives set an example for other retailers to implement. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marks & Spencer’s environmental initiatives

Marks & Spencer is a British multinational retailer specializing in clothing, beauty, home, and food products. The company launched in 1884 and has expanded to 959 stores across the UK, including 615 that only sell food products.  

In 2006, Marks & Spencer introduced their Look Behind the Label marketing campaign, highlighting the various ethical and environmentally friendly aspects of the production and sourcing methods the company was engaged in. This included initiatives such as sourcing Fairtrade products, promoting sustainable fishing, and encouraging environmentally friendly textile dyes.  

Early last year, Marks & Spencer announced they would remove their “best before dates” from over 300 fruits and vegetable products to reduce food waste. This is one of their initiatives to help cut their food waste by half by the end of the decade.  

To move away from the problem of textile waste, Marks & Spencer launched a clothing rental program where customers could rent out capsule wardrobes of up to 10 outfits a month. The company also provides rental and resale of children’s clothing, which includes options to rent school uniforms.  

Recently, Marks & Spencer announced that they would be replacing all of their plastic bags with paper carrier bags. The paper bags are said to be water-resistant (applied with natural resin) and capable of carrying up to six four-pint milk bottles (about 15 kg). The paper bags are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and can be reused up to 100 times. The bags can also be recycled in at-home recycling bins.  

The company also provides 100% recycled plastic Bags for Life, made from plastic waste collected from their stores. The bags can be returned for replacement or recycling when they are worn out. Marks & Spencer was also the first retailer to charge for single-use plastic bags in 2008, which influenced a decline in single-use bags by 90%. They have also removed plastic single-use small produce bags from their Foodhalls.

The switch from plastic to paper is part of the company’s goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. Since 2018, the company has removed over 3000 tonnes of packaging in their foods, including removing plastic trays from vegetables, including broccoli, asparagus and pears. They also removed polystyrene from their pizza bases and all black plastic, which is difficult to recycle.  

Within their clothing sections, they’ve removed the plastic covers from their cashmere sweaters and scarves and significantly reduced the use of plastic hangers and clips. The company operates on a closed-loop hanger recycling program where a portion of the volume received in their reuse centre is sent back to garment suppliers. The balance is recycled and repurposed into new hangers. Since 2007, the company has kept over 1 billion hangers out of the landfill. They’ve also removed plastic from their bedding and bathmats and removed the protective plastic in their cutlery sets.  

In their online packaging, Marks & Spencer uses a green bag made of 100% recycled plastic to package their product. Their green bags are part of their take-back program and can be returned in any store. They use paper tape instead of plastic on their cardboard boxes, which has helped them to save over 2,000,000 metres of tape annually. 

Big-name retailers like Marks & Spencer have the capacity and influence to make positive environmental change. By reducing plastic waste and developing sustainable solutions, they can help their customers confidently make environmental choices when they are shopping. Marks & Spencer’s environmental initiatives set an example for other retailers to implement. Their initiatives are simple and effective and could be as easy as removing best-before dates, encouraging clothing rentals, or switching from plastic to paper bags.  

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