Five reasons why ‘Plan A’ generated £105m in 2012
At almost exactly the same moment as I delivered my first environmental behaviour change workshop for a client in January 2007, M&S launched its groundbreaking Plan A.
I’ve come a long way in the last five and half years and so has M&S, as demonstrated with the recent release of its 2012, ‘How We Do Business Report’, so this blog will review M&S’ progress and highlight five of the reasons for its success.
A key factor in the success of Plan A is its boldness in both scope and ambition. That boldness has led to significant, even surprising, benefits. Richard Gillies, director of Plan A and Sustainable Business, states: “If I’d been told that [...] the supporting business case for Plan A would generate £185 million over the first five years, I think I may have been sceptical. Certainly, I’d have struggled to believe that Plan A would become integrated across the business to the extent that it has in just five years”. To give an example of where that value has come from, their energy efficiency has improved by 28 per cent.
M&S’ ambition hasn’t waned over the last five years, because as Marc Bolland its ceo states: “In the first instance, we will ensure that by 2020, every M&S product has Plan A built into it, making sustainability a new norm”. This demonstrates another key to the success of Plan A: whilst leadership has changed in the last five years (Marc replaced Stuart Rose in 2010), the company has stay committed to the journey and rapidly embedded sustainability into its culture.
A particularly impressive aspect of Plan A is M&S’ transparency: it has the confidence to tell the world, and its competitors, what it is doing and how well. But, in contrast to many corporate sustainability reports, the ‘How We Do Business’ reports detail exactly how many of its 180 commitments are behind plan or haven’t been achieved. This tells you a lot about M&S as a company and how it stays true to its values of ‘Quality, Value, Service, Innovation and Trust’.
The benefits to the business are accelerating, as last year 15 per cent of profits (£105 million) came from Plan A, up from 10 per cent the previous year. The fact the company can track very accurately these benefits is another key reason for its success – as the old management adage goes, ‘you can only manage what you can measure’.
The success of Plan A doesn’t just bring down costs, it also impacts positively on how its people feel about the company, which in turn leads to higher retention, motivation and other business benefits. This is highlighted by the dozens of sustainability awards the company has won. For example M&S was recognised by Management Today as one of their ‘Most Admired Companies 2011 for their ability to attract, develop and retain talent’, and won the, Guardian Sustainable Business Awards 2011 Employee Engagement Award.
All these points show how a structured approach to employee engagement, behaviour and culture change in sustainability can lead to considerable triple bottom line benefits.
You can download the report here: http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/howwedobusiness/hwdb_reports