We see it time and time again at Triple Pundit: When the world’s most progressive companies set ambitious sustainability goals for their organization and definite plans for implementation, they usually exceed expectations and get to a better place sooner than expected.
Marks and Spencer (M&S) launched its Plan A initiative in 2007, identifying 180 commitments that it would undertake to green their operations. The company then boldly predicted they would become the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015. That remains to be seen, but M&S has managed to fulfill 70 commitments already, and a further 20 will be achieved in just four months.
It’s an impressive list. On one hand, M&S now recycles 92 percent of its operational waste — up from 53 percent just six months ago — with plans to hit zero landfill waste by 2012. On the other hand, the company has outfitted 400 delivery trucks with aerodynamic tear-drop trailers that improve fuel economy and load capability by 10 percent, cutting emissions by 2,300 metric tons.
The company is also making a major push to engage customers, so they become active participants in the program and take step to reduce waste and their own carbon footprints.
Interestingly, while M&S realizes that businesses must take sustainability seriously for the welfare of the planet, they’re quick to emphasize the benefits to the company’s bottom line. During the last fiscal year, the company realized an additional £50 million ($79.3 million US) in profits by implementing Plan A, and it expects to do even better this year.
M&S is rightfully proud of its accomplishments, but recognizes the near- and medium-term goals are easier to realize than long-term commitments. But early successes have given M&S employees the encouragement to push forward. They may reach the finish line early, and then have time to set new goals for 2015.
“Plan A has come a very long way, but the challenges we face in moving towards becoming a sustainable business remain enormous,” said Chairman Sir Stuart Rose. “By making Plan A profitable, we’ve proved that doing the right thing can be good for business as well as being good for the environment, suppliers, employees and customers.”