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Marks and Spencer Case Study of Plan a

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Marks and Spencer: Summary Report of the Case Study
Marks and Spencer (M&S) is a leading UK retailer selling clothing, food, and housewares. In 2007, the company put sustainability at the heart of its business. In order to succeed, it would have to change the attitudes and the behavior of its shoppers. As a result, it launched Plan A which set out a five year plan involving 100 social and environmental commitments that were expected to shape the future of the company. Plan A would allow the company to resolve some of the big issues facing their business. They called it Plan A because there is “no B when it comes to conserving the earth’s finite resources” (Marks & Spencer Website).

Brief Background on Company
In 1884, Michael Marks started the company by selling an assortment of goods in an open-air stall in Leeds, UK. In the 1920’s, the company went public and expanded into general merchandise and ready-to-wear clothing. By the 1970’s, the company had become a British icon and a household name. However, from the 1980’s to 1993 came the troubled years. Despite the expansion of its operations in the 1980’s, the retailer had failed to keep current with its shopper’s preferences and this led to financial woes. From 1994 to 2006, it was back to the basics for the company. By 1996, it had rebounded to become the UK’s most profitable retailer. However, this recovery was short lived, and M&S experienced a significant slump in business in 1999 which continued into the early 2000’s with profits and sales declining significantly. “In 2004, Sir Stuart Rose was brought in to lead the company’s out of a crisis”. In 2007, Rose launched Plan A which was a new eco-plan initiative which he believed would be a cornerstone of the company’s competitive positioning in the years to come. M&S’ vision was to be the standard against which others are measured. The focus of the Plan A strategy was to improve the sustainability of the business.

Identification of Key Issues
Marks and Spencer launched Plan A with the goal of becoming a sustainable retailer. M&S through Plan A put sustainability at the heart of its business. Plan A set out 100 commitments, in five pillars, to be completed over five years. The goals of Plan A were: • Pillar 1: Climate Change: To become carbon neutral; • Pillar 2: Reducing Waste: To send no waste to landfill • Pillar 3: Sustainable Raw Materials: To extend its sustainable sourcing program, • Pillar 4: Being a Fair Partner: To improve the lives of those who worked within its supply chain and • Pillar 5: Health: To help customers and staff enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

The issues to be tackled through Plan A would fall into three categories which include: • People: M&S’s staff, and those employed in its supply chain; • Products: Focusing on producing high quality, value for money goods that have positive environmental and social benefits; and • Community: Recognizing that the company’ can provide a role in helping to create and maintain good places within which to work and live.
M&S is seen as a good place to work and as a good company with which to do business. From its staff welfare programs of the 1930s, through its recycling initiatives of the 1970s to the 1990s, Marks and Spencer has been seen as a leader of corporate responsibility. The company was determined to deliver on Plan A commitments without comprising of its core values: value, quality, service, innovation and trust (Marks & Spenser Website).

Risk Factors for Consideration
The risk factors to be addressed in order to successfully execute Plan A include: The Right Governance Structure In order to implement and monitor the progress of Plan A, it will be critical for the organization to have the right governance model. The organization is a commercial activity and it cannot jeopardize its viability by over extending itself with social or environmental commitments. The governance structure would need to involve the senior executives from across the company responsible for implementing Plan A. Strong leadership will matter and will require a CEO with a vision and commitment to head up an operation to retain the high level of ambition and commitment for sustainability that is needed to implement Plan A. Leadership in the Finance Function In order to ensure success, the organization will need to align sustainability within its core finance functions. It will be important to bring the finance function both into and firmly backing the sustainability initiatives in order for Plan A to be successful. Integrating into Operations and business units M&S will need to look at the business through a different lens (sustainability or green lens) which means that people will need to spot new opportunities and challenges. In order to enable implementation of the Plan A commitments, M&S would need to evolve a change management program that would be about changing the way M&S does business. It would need to engage every employee and every customer in a more sustainable future. Plan A would need to be integrated into all operations and strategic business units, and be embedded into the core business practices in order for the plan to be successful. Environmental In terms of the market environment, Marks and Spencer will need to keep pace with the tremendous speed of changes taking place in the retail market.

Technological Changes The speed of technological change will be a risk factor that would need to be addressed. Marks and Spencer will need to keep up with the pace of technological change.

Conclusion: Under Plan A, Marks and Spencer is striving to become carbon neutral, send no waste to landfill, extend sustainable sourcing, set new standards in ethical trading and help customers and employees lead healthier lifestyles. Marks and Spencer is a commercial entity. It cannot jeopardize its viability by over-extending itself with social or environmental commitments. However, by intelligently identifying the overlapping concerns of employees, suppliers, shareholders, executives, and customers, it can develop some innovative approaches which benefit all stakeholders. In order to be successful, M&S will need to embed corporate responsibility and sustainability into the way they do business. “Plan A will allow M&S to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing their business and their world. In order to execute Plan A, M&S will need to build trust based relationships with its employees, build an inclusive culture, stimulate innovation and create long term strategic relationships with suppliers and customers. The company plans to deliver on Plan A commitments without compromising on the core values of M&S: value, quality, service, innovation and trust. M&S plans to make the business more sustainable, and to generate net benefits for the company which includes turning Marks and Spencer into a customer-focused, fast-moving retailer, offering only the highest quality products, service and shopping environments. .

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