In June 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Marks & Spencer Group plc website for the company's environmental policy or report.

An environmental policy was deemed necessary to report on a company's environmental performance and set targets for reducing its impacts in the future. A strong policy would include two future, quantified environmental targets, demonstration by the company that it had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts, be dated within two years and have its environmental data independently verified.

The company's most recent report was dated within two years prior to the time of writing.

The company demonstrated a good understanding of its main impacts by including a discussion of its impacts in relations to clothing by discussing the following areas: cotton, recycling, water, chemicals, delivery (transport), climate, and leather. In relation to food it discussed pesticides, fertilizers, land use, sustainable agriculture (in relation to palm and soy for example), packaging and refrigeration.

Two or more quanitified future targets were found which included:
- By 2025 we aim to reduce refrigeration gas carbon emissions by 80% in all M&S operated stores in the UK and ROI (against 2006/07 baseline)
- 100% of our soy is sourced from verified deforestation free regions by 2025
- Reduce UK retail food waste by 50% by 2030. (against 2017/18 baseline)

The data in the report was independently verified by DNV GL Business Assurance Services UK Limited.

Overall, Marks & Spencer Group plc received a Best Ethical Consumer rating for Environmental Reporting and lost no marks in the Environmental Reporting category.

Reference:

Plan A Report 2021 (2021)

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.

Reference:

Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

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.

1.a
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.

Reference:

Plan A Report 2021 (2021)

In June 2021 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 and viewed its 'Responsible leather sourcing policy' dated 2018. M&S appeared to be a member of the Leather Working Group (LWG) but it did not appear to have all its tanneries gold certified. Its leather sourcing policy stated that tanneries should be bronze rated under the LWG auditing protocol.
No evidence was found to suggest that M&S only used leather that was organic, upcycled leather or natural dyes.
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. Due to not only sourcing leather from LWG Gold rated tanneries, the company lost half a mark in the Pollution and Toxics.
The company also retailed many products which were made from silk. No policy could be found regarding the sourcing of the silk. It was therefore assumed to have been made using conventional silk processes in which the silk worms are killed. It lost half a mark under the Animal Rights category for this.

Reference:

marksandspencer.com (27 June 2021)

In June 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the M&S website and found that it was a clothing company. Many of the processes involved in the manufacture of clothing, especially the production of man made fibres and dying of fabrics, release numerous hazardous substances that have a significant negative environmental impact. As the issue was considered to be an industry wide problem all clothing companies were assessed on the following citeria: whether they used 100% sustainably sourced materials (i.e. organic, recycled or cotton sourced under the Better Cotton Initiative); or had a turnover of less than £10.2 million and were providing an environmental alternative.
Some companies partially met these criteria, or were signatories to ZDHC (Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemicals), in which case they would lose half a mark.

M&S was listed as a contributor to ZDHC.

It's Plan A 2021 report stated "Cotton, polyester and man-made cellulosic fibres are some of the most widely used fibres across Clothing & Home products" and accounted for about 80% of its material footprint.

M&S stated that all of its cotton was sourced from 'more sustainable sources', which it defined as cotton that met any of the following criteria:
- Better Cotton Initiative certified
- Fairtrade certified
- Organic
- Recycled

Regarding polyester, it stated, "22% of the polyester used to make our products was from recycled sources and we are working to increase this year on year with aim to reach 100% preferred fibre conversion by 2025". As the majority of polyster was assumed to be virgin, this was not considered sustainble.

Regarding man-made cellulosic fibres (such as viscose) the company stated: " In 2020/21, 13% of the MMCF fibres used to make our products came from an M&S Plan A preferred sustainable source (as listed in our policy) and we are working to reach 100% preferred fibre conversion by 2025". The majority of it's man-made cellulosic fibres were therefore not considered sustainable.

Marks and Spencer was clearly taking steps to ensure the materials used for its clothing were sustainable. However, it did not currently source 100% sustainable materials, but it was contributor to the ZDHC.

As a result M&S received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Pollution and Toxics (clothing) and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

corporate.marksandspencer.com (28 June 2021)

In June 2021 Ethical Consumer sent Marks & Spencer a questionnaire, requesting information about the company’s approach to the use of the chemicals parabens, triclosan and phthalates. No response was received. Ethical Consumer therefore searched the company’s website for publicly available information.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer and are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors. Some forms or uses of these chemicals are banned or restricted in the EU or the USA.
A strong policy on toxics would be no use of these chemicals or clear, dated targets for ending their use.

No policy was found regarding the company's use of parabens in its products. The company had stated in a questionnaire in 2017 that it did not use parabens in household and cosmetics products, however at the time of writing (2021) this was considered outdated information and no up-to-date policy could be found.

The company was found to have prohibited all use of triclosan in its products. It stated "Triclosan is not permitted for use in any M&S product" in its Environmental Chemical Policy 2020.

The company's manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) V2.0Restricted Substances List (RSL) V3.0 (March 2020) was viewed and stated: "M&S restricts all Ortho-phthalates." This was considered a positive policy.

Overall, Marks & Spencer Group plc received a Middle Ethical Consumer rating for toxic chemicals policy – household and personal care and lost half a mark under the Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

corporate.marksandspencer.com (28 June 2021)

In June 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the M&S website for the company's conflict minerals policy. The company sold a range of electric lighting. It had not published a conflict minerals policy.

Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.

Ethical Consumer expected all companies manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Such a policy would articulate the company's commitment to conflict-free sourcing of 3TG minerals and a commitment to continue ensuring due diligence on the issue. The policy should also state that it intended to continue sourcing from the DRC region in order to avoid an embargo and that the company had membership of, or gave financial support to, organisations developing the conflict-free industry in the region.

Due to the fact the company had no policy it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its policy on conflict free minerals and lost a whole mark under the Habitats and Resources and Human Rights categories.

Reference:

marksandspencer.com (27 June 2021)

In June 2021 Ethical Consumer searched M&S’s website for a bee welfare policy.

The company sold own brand honey. Considering the bee welfare issues associated with honey production (bee mutilation and the killing of drones, colonies or brood to ensure maximum honey yield), Ethical Consumer felt it necessary for companies producing honey to have a policy ensuring this was not happening in their supply chain.

The company website stated "Select Farms quality means M&S only works with farmers, growers and producers it knows and trusts to source its products with care - whether that’s the highest animal welfare standards or protecting the natural environment."

Ethical Consumer was unable to identify information about what was signified by "highest animal welfare standards", or whether these applied across the company's supply chain.

Furthermore, M&S faced criticism for its bee project in an article by Plant Based News, dated 17 April 2021 and titled 'Marks And Spencer Under Fire Over ‘Environmentally Damaging’ Bee Plan On UK Farms.

The article stated "Marks and Spencer has come under fire after it unveiled a program to introduce 30 million bees onto UK farms to produce honey and ‘boost pollination’. [...] Whilst Marks and Spencer claims the program will ‘help’ the environment, The Guardian painted a different picture. The news outlet claimed the scheme in fact backfires. Moreover, it claimed the plans could in fact cause detrimental effects on ecosystems and in particular, wild bees."

This led to the company being accused of "beewashing".

As a result the company lost half a mark for retailing honey without an adequate welfare policy under the Animal Rights category, and half a mark for secondary criticism under Habitats and Resources and Animal Rights.

Reference:

marksandspencer.com (27 June 2021)

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.

Reference:

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

In June 2021 Ethical Consumer searched for information on Marks & Spencer Group plc’s use of palm ingredients.

The mass production of palm oil has relied on the destruction of rainforests, which has wide ranging impacts including contributing to climate change, as well as loss of biodiversity and human rights.

To get a best rating in this category, a large company (>£100m annual turnover) now needs to have all palm oil and derivatives certified, for at least 50% of total ingredients to be from a physically certified supply chain, to publish a list of all its mills (with no problem ones appearing), and to publish an annually updated grievance list.

All its palm ingredients including derivatives were certified RSPO. Its latest ACOP (2019) stated that 99.98% of its palm oil and palm oil products was certified.

At least 50% of its total palm ingredients including derivatives were from a physically certified supply chain, ie RSPO Segregated or Identity Preserved.

The company did not publish a list of all its mills and producer groups/parent companies (refiners). No annually updated grievance list was found.

On the M&S Palm Oil webpage it stated:
"Our goal is to ensure that all palm oil used in our products is produced by companies that don’t contribute to deforestation and that ensure local communities and workers in the palm oil industry are protected.
We committed to ensuring that 100% of our palm oil would be from responsible sources by 2020."

Under the first green section on its approach, it stated for Minimum Standards:
"All palm oil must be:
Purchased from First Importers of palm oil who meet the following standards:
Not contribute to clearance of high carbon stock (HCS) forests
Not contribute to peatland expansion (regardless of depth), and use best management practices for existing plantations on peat
Be traceable from refinery to extraction mill and from validated Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) sources
Protect human rights in line with M&S Global Sourcing Principles"

"M&S requires all direct suppliers to report on their use of palm oil by volume, supply chain, and certification status.
This allows M&S to understand whom our suppliers buy from and ensure that upstream suppliers meet M&S standards.
Our aim is to trace our supply chains to First Importers (the companies importing the palm oil from palm growing countries into Europe)."

Under Supply Chain Tracking it stated:
"We ask all our suppliers to report annually on their usage of palm oil, where it comes from (to refinery)".

Although M&S had an approach that aims to trace its supply chains so that it can ensure the First Importers meet standards similar to those Ethical Consumer is looking for, it does not actually list the mills, so that any without effective NDPE implementation would be disclosed. Nor did it appear to maintain a grievance list of issues raised in its supply chain. It was considered to be moving in the right direction, but had not yet made sufficient progress to meet Ethical Consumer's updated requirements for a middle or best rating in this category.

Overall, M&S received a worst Ethical Consumer rating for palm oil sourcing and lost a whole mark in the Palm Oil category.

Reference:

marksandspencer.com (27 June 2021)