In June 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the website of Marks & Spencer Group plc, looking for information on what the company was doing to tackle climate change.
Ethical Consumer was looking for the company to satisfy the following criteria in its public statements and reports:
1.a For the company to discuss its areas of climate impact, and to discuss plausible ways it has cut them in the past, and ways that it will cut them in the future.
1.b For the company to have relevant sector-specific policies in place.
1.c For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding it’s climate actions, and to have a policy to avoid investing in fossil fuels.
2. For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company).
3. For the company to go some way towards reporting its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).
4. For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.
If a company met all of these criteria it would receive a best rating. If it met parts 1&2 (impacts and annual reporting CO2e) it would receive a middle rating. Otherwise it would receive a worst rating.
Small companies (annual turnover below £10.2 million) were only required to meet part 1 in order to receive a best rating. Small companies that did not directly meet any criteria would receive a middle rating if they were offering an environmental alternative.
Companies of any size whose core focus was related to climate change mitigation were also only required to meet part 1 for a best rating and would receive a middle rating even if they did not directly meet any criteria.
The company discussed its main areas of impact in detail in the document 'M&S Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change Performance 2021/21'. It broke downs its scope 1 (such as electricity use) and 2 emissions (such as fuel, travel, waste), and some scope 3 emissions. It discussed how it would continue to roll out ne refrigeration technology to improve energy efficiency. It discussed renewables as a way to reduce its emissions. This was considered to constitute an adequate discussion of its climate impacts.
1.b Ethical Consumer searched for M&S' approach to HFCs. A previous Plan A report (2018) had discussed the company use of HFCs in some detail, including the following goal: "By 2030, we aim to replace HFCs in refrigeration systems in all M&S operated stores in the UK and ROI." It also provided figures on refrigeration and air conditioning gases used in UK and Ireland stores. The 2021 Plan A report stated "This year, our emissions from UK and ROI refrigeration and air-conditioning were 36,134 tonnes CO2e which is -23% on last year. [...] We continue to develop our Net Zero refrigerant strategy and are targeting our assets which do not currently use natural refrigerants." As such the company was considered to be making some progress towards the elimination of HFCs.
1.c The company was not found to be involved in particularly damaging projects.
2. The company reported its annual scope 1 and 2 emissions to be 177,000 tonnes CO2e.
3. The company reported on some scope 3 emissions as follows: 31,000 tonnes CO2e. In it's 'Plan A' report it stated Scope 3 emissions offset include emissions from electricity transmission and distribution, delivery fleet fuel supply chain, business travel and waste and recyclin". Ethical Consumer expected the company to go further in its scope 3 emissions. For example, as it was a clothing company its scope 3 emissions should take account of the carbon emissions involved in producing clothing it sells. The company did not appear to have included adequate depth in its scope 3 emissions.
4. The company had a target in line with international agreements, stating that it had "approved science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; 80% reduction by 2030, 90% reduction by 2035, and a cumulative project-based target for our wider value-chain of 13.3 million tonnes CO2e by 2030." It stated that its targets were "Classified as ‘well under 2C’ in 2019 by the Science Based Target Initiative".
The company met criteria 1,2 and 4, but was not considered to meet criteria 3. Therefore Marks & Spencer Group plc received a middle Ethical Consumer rating for carbon management and reporting and lost half a mark in the Climate Change category.