In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Marks and Spencer’s website for a copy of its environmental report and downloaded the company’s “2018 Plan A Report” and "Plan A Performance Update 2019".
The report discussed GHGs, energy efficiancy, renewable energy and fuel efficiency. It also discussed food waste, packaging, plastic and recycling. The report also went into detail about the impacts of specific ingredients and products such as cotton, palm oil, soy, animal products and paper. Also discussed was deforestation and soil health with a view to reducing agricultural inputs. The Performance Update contained performance data on these issues. Marks and Spencer’s was considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of its main impacts.
The report also contained numerous targets and more than two of these were quantifiable environmental reduction targets with baselines. These included:

“By 2030, in line with climate science, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from M&S operations worldwide by 80% compared to 2006/07, en route to a 90% reduction by 2035.”

“By 2020, we aim to improve energy efficiency in M&S operated stores, offices and warehouses in the UK and ROI by 50% compared to 2006/07, rising to 60% by 2025.”

“By 2020, we plan to reduce food waste in our UK stores by 20% per sq ft against 2013/14. In addition, we will review opportunities to donate an increased amount of food to charities.”

The report was dated in the last two years. The report and the update were both independently verified by DNV GL Business Assurance Services UK Limited.
Overall Marks and Spencer received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for Environmental Reporting.


M&S Plan A Report 2018 (3 January 2019)

In January 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed Marks and Spencer's 2018 'Plan A' report which contained information on the use of HFCs.

Marks and Spencer's had a target that "by 2030, we aim to replace HFCs in refrigeration systems in all M&S operated stores in the UK and ROI".

It also reported on its progress stating: "69 M&S stores now have HFC-free sales floor refrigeration systems, our standard specification for all new-build stores. This represents a significant increase on last year’s total of 37 stores. However, we have not devised a plan for our existing stores to be converted by 2030, making it Behind plan.
HFC 68%
HFO 0%
Other natural fluids and gases 31%"

M&S appeared to be making some progress towards reducing its impact therefore it lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Climate Change category.

In October 2014 Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released it 6th and final report called Chilling Facts: Closing the doors on HFCs. The report provided research into the growing uptake of natural refrigerants among some of the world's leading retailers, reflecting a market shift towards climate-friendly refrigeration in the supermarket sector. According to the report hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the world's fastest growing source of man-made emissions, rising at an alarming rate of 10-15 per cent a year. EIA considered the adaptation of HFC/CO2 hybrid systems as a potentially useful stepping stone towards HFC-free systems, but not as an end point in themselves. The overall aim should be to phase out these gases in favour of climate-friendly alternatives. The report looked at the chemicals used in refrigerating both in-store fridges and freezers as well as the transportation of goods.
The report recommended that retailers should:
1. Commit to installing only HFC-free systems in all new stores and refurbishments, across entire estate, including their food transport systems and international operations;
2. Commit to a total phase-out by 2025 at the latest (the UK Government will ban the use HFCs with the GWP above 2500 from 2020).
3. Fit doors on all chiller and freezer units as standard
4. Remove any HFCs with Global Warming Potential above 2,500 in existing equipment as a matter of priority.


M&S Plan A Report 2018 (3 January 2019)

The campaign group Feedback published a report in June 2018 entitled The food waste scorecard: an assessment of supermarket action to address food waste. The report ranked UK supermarkets based on publicly available information, mainly from their websites or news articles, to assess their efforts to tackle food waste in the industry.

The report measured supermarkets against the food use hierarchy. Feedback established key indicators for each facet of the food use hierarchy, which include reducing and preventing surplus food as a priority, followed by redistributing surplus food, recycling surplus food and finally the proper disposal of food waste. Supermarkets scored a point for each of the 32 key indicators successfully implemented.

Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) scored an E rating overall and ranked joint 5th of the 10 supermarkets assessed in the report, along with Co-op and Iceland.

On reducing and preventing surplus food, M&S was found to have implemented 5 of the 20 key indicators and to have publicly available data on food waste. However, the presentation of figures by M&S - as volume of sales versus in relation to floor space - was used by Feedback to illustrate the discrepancies in publicly available data provided by supermarkets and the need for consistent and transparent reporting across the sector.

The second step in the food use hierarchy is redistribution, which involves surplus food that is fit for human consumption being sent to charities and organisations that redistribute food. M&S was found to have implemented 2 of the 4 key indicators and scored 1 out of 3 available points for the quantity of food redistributed, which totalled 757 tonnes based on the most recent data available at the time of publishing.

The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. M&S did not score any points under this criteria and was not found to be engaging in this activity.

The final step in the food use hierarchy is the disposal of inedible food waste. Most UK supermarkets have a zero waste to landfill commitment. Instead, large quantities of food suitable for human consumption is being sent to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) to be converted into energy. According to the Feedback report, AD should only be used to process food waste which is unsuitable for redistribution or animal feed. M&S was recognised for fulfilling 1 of the 3 key indicators under the disposal criteria due to its zero waste to landfill commitment.

The report stated, "Producing our food costs our planet dearly, with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries doubling over the past 50 years (FAO 2014) to nearly 20% of emissions resulting from human activity. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted (FAO 2011)". As M&S was one of the lowest scoring in this report, it lost half a mark under Climate Change.


Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Marks and Spencer website for infomation on how it managed its climate impacts and carbon reporting. Ethical Consumer downloaded a document titled "M&S greenhouse emissions and climate change performance 2019/20" and viewed a webpage titled "Climate Change" under the sustainability section of the website.

The performance report stated: "Marks & Spencer commits to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2030 below 2007 levels and has a longer-term vision to achieve 90% absolute emissions reductions by 2035, below 2007 levels. Marks & Spencer also commits to reduce scope 3 emissions by 13.3 MtCO2e between 2017 and 2030. Classified as ‘well under 2C’ in 2019 by the Science Based Target Initiative". It was considered to have adequate carbon reduction targets.

The climate change webpage outlined what Marks and Spencer considered its key impact areas. In relation to its direct emissions it discussed its actions around buildings, energy efficiency, renewable energy and refrigeration ("In the UK and Republic of Ireland we've reduced refrigeration emissions by over 70% since 2007. We’ve switched to the use of carbon dioxide instead of more damaging HFC gases in all new UK and Republic of Ireland refrigeration system installations."). There was also discussion of emissions related the company's supply chain including programmes to support suppliers in reducing their emissions and removing commodity driven deforestation from its supply chains. It also stated that it had been switching the energy sold through M&S Energy to renewables and 100% of M&S Energy's electricity was said to be from renewable sources (although this appeared to be through matching rather than any added renewable energy generation). The company was considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of it climate and carbon impacts and how to address them.

The company was reporting its Scope 1 and 2 gross CO2e emissions yearly. It provided figures using both location-based and market-based methodologies.

It reported on scope 3 emissions which it labelled as 'other'. Ethical Consumer expected scope 3 reporting to cover at least a companies tier 1 suppliers. The figure for scope 3 was also significantly lower than for scope 1 and 2 was considered unlikely to cover these. However, the company also had a separate section where it had modelled its scope 3 emissions in relation to its supply chain. It stated "The additional scope 3 emissions below have been ‘modelled’ using a range of different techniques. As such they provide a scale and identification of ‘hotspots’ which we are now addressing. However, these figures are not sufficiently accurate to monitorincremental improvements".

As the company demonstrated a reasonable understanding, was annually reporting on scope 1 and 2 CO2e emissions, had modelled and reported its supply chain emissions and had adequate targets it received Ethical Consumer's best rating for carbon management and reporting.


M&S greenhouse emissions and climate change performance 2019/20 (2020)

The Greenpeace Detox campaign investigates the use of toxic chemicals in textiles and clothing - asking companies to commit 'Detoxing' their supply chain of hazardous chemicals by 2020. It published its latest leaderboard, the 2016 Detox Catwalk in July 2016.

Companies were divided into three categories:

Avant-Garde - Detox committed companies that are ahead of the field, leading the industry towards a toxic-free future with credible timelines, concrete actions and on-the-ground implementation.

Evolution - Companies committed to Detox and have made progress implementing their plans, but their actions need to evolve faster to achieve the 2020 Detox goal.

Faux Pas - Companies which originally made a Detox commitment but are currently heading in the wrong direction, failing to take individual responsibility for their supply chain´s hazardous chemical pollution.

M&S, was listed on Greenpeace’s detox website,, under the heading 'Evolution Mode'.

Greenpeace noted that although M&S were on track to remove harmful PFCs from their products by 2020, it was not doing enough to label current product which were finished with a PFC coating. Greenpeace went on to say that M&S had performed well on transparency; "it has ensured the disclosure of data representing 39% of its wet process facilities, publishes an interactive online list of suppliers and is monitoring for hazardous chemicals at various stages of the manufacturing process."

Ethical Consumer judged M&S to be taking positive steps to ensuring that hazardous chemicals were removed from their supply chain. The company’s transparency in terms of releasing results from tests done through-out their supply chain set a good example for the industry. However, as Greenpeace highlighted, M&S could and should be doing more to remove these chemicals.

M&S therefore received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Pollution & Toxics and lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.


Detox Catwalk 2016 (2016)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Marks and Spencer website and found that it sold multiple products made out of leather. As leather was a slaughterhouse by-product, and its sale was considered to be a significant part of M&S's business, as a clothes retailer, the company lost a mark in the Animal Rights category.

Ethical Consumer searched the company's corporate website for a policy on leather.

Marks and Spencer stated in its Non-food Animal Welfare Policy: "Astrakhan / Karakul–must not be used, or any other leather/skin productswhich are the product of unnatural abortions; Leather/skin product-must not be obtainedfrom live skinning (e.g. reptiles) or live boiling;Cow hide -must not be sourced from India; All other leather must be sourced in compliance with our Responsible Leather Sourcing Policy"
Marks and Spencers Plan A leather committment stated "Products which contain leather, comply with the M&S chemical policy and Plan A leather policy, and must score Green on the M&S animal statement country assessment. The tannery completing final stage(s) of processing must also achieve at least Bronze rating and have a traceability score via the Leather Working Group auditing protocol."

Leather, as the hide of a dead animal, naturally decomposes. To prevent this decomposition the leather industry uses a cocktail of harmful chemicals including trivalent chromium sulphate, sodium sulphide, sodium sulfhydrate, arsenic and cyanide to preserve it. Tannery effluent also contains large amounts of other pollutants, such as protein, hair, salt, lime sludge and acids. These can all pollute the land, air, and watersupply making it a highly polluting industry. As a result the company lost half a mark in the Pollution and Toxics category as it did not appear to be sourcing 100% of its leather from tanneries rated Gold by the Leather Working Group (LWG).

The company also retailed many products which were made from silk. No policy could be found regarding the sourcing of the silk therefore it lost half a mark under Animal Rights category.


Non-food Animal Welfare Products Policy (2013)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Marks and Spencer's cotton sourcing policy dated December 2017 and a webpage titled 'Cotton' on the company's corporate website.

It stated that M&S suppliers must not source cotton from Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan and that suppliers must provide the country of origin of all cotton products. This was considered a positive policy addressing workers' rights issues in the cotton supply chain.

M&S had a committment to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2019. The website stated that: "Our goal is to ensure that 100% of the cotton for our clothing continues to be sustainably sourced - a goal we first met in March 2019." It defined sustainable cotton as meeting any one of the following standards: Better Cotton Initiative (BCI); organic cotton; Fairtrade; recycled cotton. For BCI and organic cotton a minimum of 50% of product composition was required to meet "Plan A Product Attribute" purposes, for recycled cotton it was 25%.
It was widely reported that cotton covered 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet used 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other major crop. Due to the fact that M&S's criteria did not require all cotton to be grown with fewer pesticides (e.g. M&S sustainable cotton could address workers rights only) M&S lost half a mark in the Pollution and Toxics category.

The policy did not mention GMOs. In a questionnaire completed by M&S in February 2017 regarding GMO cotton, it was stated: “On the use of GM cotton our position is neutral – we leave it to the farmer to decide which is best for them.” According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 75% of cotton grown in 2015. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that the company's cotton products contained some GM material. It therefore lost half a mark in the Controversial Technologies category.

As it lost marks under two out of three of Ethical Consumer's cotton rating criteria, Marks and Spencer received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cotton sourcing policy.


cotton sourcing policy (December 2017)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Guardian website from 5th October 2019. It was titled "Tesco and M&S likely to have soya linked to deforestation in supply chains".

It reported: "An investigation has revealed that Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and M&S all buy products from UK farmers using animal feed that includes soya from Argentina. About 14% of Argentina’s planted soya is in the north of the country, where deforestation has laid waste to huge areas of the Gran Chaco forest. Argentinian officials have confirmed to the Guardian that there is no traceability system for soya from deforested areas, which appears to be mixed with soya from other parts of the country before being sold on to the UK and other parts of the world."

Marks and Spencer lost half a mark under Habitats and Resources.


Tesco and M&S likely to have soya linked to deforestation in supply chains (5 October 2019)

In April 2018 the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) issued a press release estimating the proportion of fish sold by supermarkets which was MSC certified. Marks and Spencer had 19%

The MSC label was reported to ensure that the fish being bought had been caught in an environmentally friendly way. MSC stated “Only seafood from fisheries that meet our strict standard for sustainability can be sold with the blue MSC label. These fisheries ensure that fish are caught at levels that allow fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend to remain healthy and productive for the future… All along the supply chain, from ocean to plate, MSC certified fish and seafood is separated from non-certified. It is clearly labelled and can be traced back to a certified sustainable source.”

As Marks and Spencer had less than two thirds of its range certified it lost half a mark in the Habitats and Resources category.


Aldi swims ahead of British supermarkets in sustainable seafood (18 April 2018)

In July 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Marks & Spencer website for information on the company's timber sourcing policy.

Ethical Consumer's timber sourcing ranking required companies scoring a 'best' to cover six of the below issues:
1. Having a timber sourcing policy that covers all timber and timber-derived products
2. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources and...
3. ...a discussion on how a company ensures/ implements this
4. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources
5. a discussion of a good minimum standard
6. preference given to certified sources
7. a discussion about tropical hardwoods (THW) and the percentage of THW sourced that are FSC certified
8. involvement with a multi-stakeholder initiative or bridging programme such as the World Wildlife Fund- Global Forest Trade Network
9. use of reclaimed or recycled wood/ paper
10. a high total percentage (50%+) of FSC certified timber sourced by the company.

The Plan A section of the M&S website included a page titled Natural Resources, Protecting Forests with a link to Marks and Spencer's Wood Policy, dated April 2016. This outlined the company's policy, which it stated applied to all aspects of Marks and Spencer's business (criteria 1). The webpage stated it had set a target of 2020 for removing commodity-driven deforestation from its supply chain (including from timber and timber-derived products, soy, palm oil, and cattle).

The Wood Policy stated that wood must come from legally harvested sources (criteria 2).

The company stated that in 2016/17 99% of the wood used was Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, recycled or from sources assessed as otherwise protecting forests and communities. The majority was said to be FSC, which it stated was its 'preferred certification scheme.' (criteria 9 and 10)

M&S also said, 'We will purchase non-certified wood if we have sufficient evidence that forests and communities are protected (or that the risk of this is low). We also encourage the use of wood from secondary sources (reclaimed, reused or recycled).'

With regards to how it this was implemented in the company's supply chain, M&S stated: 'we’ve developed a simple RED / GREEN rating system for our buyers to use and we also provide them with tailored reports so they understand the causes of failure and can work with their suppliers to achieve M&S standards. We provide a range of training resources such as webinars, guides and run a wood help desk. In sourcing wood, we receive data submissions from more than 300 suppliers, resulting in more 6,000 lines of data and more than 2,000 claim checks.' (criteria 3)

M&S has been a member of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network since 2004. (criteria 7)

With regards to the company's sourcing of wood-fibre used in textiles, it stated, 'Our preferred certification standard is FSC. We recommend that our suppliers source FSC certified materials, to comply with our requirements. If we find out that our fibres are being sourced in breach of our requirements, we work with the suppliers involved to help them shift to acceptable methods or we re-evaluate our commercial relationship with them.' However, the policy for this was much less rigorous and little further relevant information could be found.

The company received Ethical Consumer's best rating for timber sourcing.


M&S Wood Policy 2016 (April 2016)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer downloaded Marks and Spencer's Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) 2018 to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm OIL (RSPO) as well as the information on palm oil provided on the company's website.

100% of the company's palm oil was certified through the following mechanisms:
Segregated: 67%
Mass Balance: 30%
Book and Claim: 3%
Indentity Preserved: Less than 1%

The company picked up additional marks for disclosing volumes, having a group wide commitment and for conducting the following positive initiative which Ethical Consumer regarded as significant: it expected zero deforestation commitments to apply to all the palm oil produced or traded by First Importers (at a Group level) and it asked its suppliers to report annually on where their palm oil came from, to refinery. It did not receive extra marks for mapping its supply chain, however, because it did not map to the mill or plantation. The company also did not disclose its suppliers.

Overall Marks and Spencer received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its Palm Oil sourcing.


ACOP 2018 (2018)