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We must change everything, retail leader tells Green Summit

Speaking at Greater Manchester’s inaugural Green Summit, the director of sustainable business at M&S outlined the sustainability challenge facing businesses.

Speaking at Greater Manchester’s inaugural Green Summit, the director of sustainable business at M&S outlined the sustainability challenge facing businesses.

Mike Barry addressed mayor Andy Burnham’s landmark Green Summit on 21 March.

The director of sustainable business was part of the team that launched M&S’ ground-breaking Plan A in 2007 to revolutionise the retailer into a fully sustainable business. Plan A has since been updated three times, with 297 individual commitments delivered to date. 

‘There is no Plan B’

“All around us, climate change is happening now. I’ve seen M&S stores flooded in Sheffield, in Carlisle, in Chennai in India because of extreme weather. I’ve seen food supply chains disrupted at a factory level and a raw material level as well. All around us it is starting to bite into how we do business”, Barry said.

“Ten years ago we recognised that this world was coming. We launched Plan A because there is no Plan B for the one planet we’ve got.

Sustainable suppliers

“M&S is served by several thousands factories around the world producing goods for us. Crucially, every one of our food factories that applies is on the bronze, silver, gold ladder to become systemically more sustainable. 

“You work up that ladder, you become a leader, you create less waste, you use less energy, you’ve got better people practices. And in return we buy more from you because you see a business case. It’s a virtuous, positive circle.”

The journey continues

Plan A affects every part of M&S’ business, with each product needing to have a ‘Plan A story’ to tell by 2020, and multiple stories by 2025.

“Even for a business relatively good like M&S, we’ve done perhaps 20 per cent of the journey to be sustainable. We need to change everything we do still and dramatically into the future.’