M&S to take sustainable practice learnings in India global

UK-based retail chain Marks & Spencer is taking learnings from India to replicate it to other global markets as it bids to become the world's most sustainable major retailer.

The company, which has identified India as the most important market for its sustainable business practice named 'Plan A' outside of the UK, has also increased sourcing of cotton and clothing from the country besides doubling the number of cotton farmers associated with it to 18,000.

"India is the most important market internationally for us under the Plan A. We learnt initially how to do it in the UK and then took it to other international operations. India is the place where we are learning the most," Marks & Spencer Director of Plan A Mike Barry told PTI from London.

He said the way forward is to take the learnings from India, "the most rapidly growing market place" to other international operations.

Under the 'Plan A', M&S had aimed to be the world's most sustainable major retailer by 2015. It has now extended it across M&S' international business over the next six years, called Plan A 2020, which is a sustainable business plan focused on customer, employee and supplier engagement.

Among other things, it envisages increasing energy efficiency target of its stores to 50 per cent from 35 per cent per sq ft by 2020; helping customers recycle 20 million items of clothing a year and launching of a global community programme to increase the scale of the social, environmental and economic benefits of supply chain.

Commenting on the learnings from India, Barry said these included functioning of and innovations in supply chain, stores, procurement of products and association with farmers.

Reduction of water and pesticide usage by farmers, while improving their profitability and providing financial literacy and access to low cost financial services through partners to supply chain workers are also highlights.

Expressing satisfaction over the progress made in India, he said: "We have increased the number of farmers from whom we source cotton to 18,000 now from 9,000 in 2012. In terms of sourcing of clothing, 60 per cent of what we sold in our 40 stores in India are locally made."

Going forward, he said the aim in India for a sustainable business is to bring all its outlets in the country on the lines of its Delhi store which is already a holder of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard and the Bangalore store that has a silver standard developed by US Green Building Council.

Moreover, the company will also be focusing on how to reach out for charity in India and help raise funds in line with the Plans A 2020, under which UK stores of M&S are targeting to raise 1 million pound every year for local charities besides the plan to raise 20 million pound for health and well being charities by 2020.

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