Can a retailer transform our communities?

On 1 June 2017, Marks and Spencer plc announced a major community transformation programme as part of Plan A 2025 – its new plan to support 1,000 communities; help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives; and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.


This pioneering programme will see M&S work with local councils and charity partners to support communities to deliver positive, measurable change. The company launched its new programme on ‘Make it Matter Day’.

The programme will be piloted in 10 communities over the next two years, when M&S will trial a range of actions designed to tackle the issues that matter most to communities – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, and mental health and wellbeing. Successful initiatives will be rolled out to a further 100 locations by 2023, and learnings will be shared with 1,000 locations by 2025.

“Marks & Spencer has been at the forefront of social change for 133 years, and we’re determined to play a leading role in the years ahead by taking positive action to enable customers and communities to live happier, healthier lifestyles. Through our UK-wide store network we are seeing more and more evidence that communities need support from partners, like M&S, to positively deliver change.” – Steve Rowe, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer

Locally tailored

The ten communities M&S is currently in discussions with are Birmingham (focusing on Handsworth and Handsworth Wood), Bradford, Glasgow (focusing on Easterhouse), Liverpool (focusing on Toxteth and Dingle), Derry~Londonderry, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, London Borough of Newham, Norwich, and Rochdale.

In these communities, M&S will trial a series of locally tailored initiatives that will aim to improve the social wellbeing and happiness of residents by working with The Social Innovation Partnership to track how residents feel about their community – how positive they are, if they are connected to others, and whether they feel part of the community.

To deliver the initiatives M&S will work with local councils and partners including Business In The Community, Royal Voluntary Service, The Silver Line, Power to Change, Frazzled Cafe, and Neighbourly. Each of the 10 locations will have a programme of activities that will include some or all of the following, as well as bespoke initiatives:

  • support for children starting school, including 10,000 pairs of plimsolls
  • careers advice, CV and interview support, and work experience for school leavers  
  • a plan to create the biggest friendship group in the area to tackle loneliness and exclusion by bringing together customers, colleagues, and local people through events at M&S stores such as tea parties, walking clubs, and a network of volunteer phone buddies
  • hosting Frazzled Cafes for those feeling stressed or in need of support
  • support for up to 100 start-up community businesses that are led by and for the benefit of local people
  • investment in outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone
  • Grants to support food surplus charities to fund fridges and cool bags to ensure they can redistribute fresh food and providing volunteers to host special events throughout the year – every year M&S stores will provide an estimated 30,000 meals to the homeless and people living in poverty in the 10 locations
  • Employee volunteering

More detail on the pilot community programme can be found here.

Big impact

As well as supporting 1,000 communities, Plan A 2025 also aims to make M&S a zero-waste business, and to help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives. New commitments include:

  • supporting M&S colleagues worldwide to provide one million hours of work-time community volunteering between 2017 and 2025
  • all M&S packaging to be ‘widely recyclable’ by 2022
  • halving food waste by 2025
  • at least half of global food sales to come from healthier products by 2022
  • helping raise £25 million for charities tackling cancer, heart disease, mental health problems, loneliness, and dementia by 2025
  • all key raw materials M&S uses to come from sustainable sources by 2025

M&S will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in its own operations by 2030 (compared to 2007 levels) and, during the same period, cut emissions in its supply chain by 13.3m tonnes (approved Science Based Target). M&S will report on the progress of its Plan A 2025 every year in June, and the commitments will be assured by independent auditors and M&S’ own audit team.

The original Plan A programme launched 10 years ago and has since helped redefine the role of business in society. It has delivered 296 eco and ethical commitments, won 240 awards, and saved over £750 million in costs through efficiencies such as using less energy, fewer transport miles, and reducing packaging.

This story shows how Marks & Spencer supports Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals, specifically Target 17.17: “Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.”

About Marks & Spencer

Marks and Spencer plc (also known as M&S) is a major, British, multinational retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London, UK. Founded in 1884, by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer, it specialises in the sale of clothing, homewares, and luxury food items. The company has 979 stores throughout the UK, as well 454 international outlets.

Commitments, Actions and Progress from Marks & Spencer

Photo credits: Marks and Spencer