Marks & Spencer has 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.
The pioneering programme will see M&S work with local councils and charity partners to support communities to deliver positive, measurable change. It is launching on ‘Make it Matter Day’ – when M&S is encouraging the UK to make every decision count* and #SpenditWell.
It will initially be piloted in ten communities, including Merthyr Tydfil, 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.
The programme kicks off with a week of community volunteering, which will see over 7,000 M&S colleagues from 650 stores and offices donating time to over 700 local projects across the UK.
M&S Regional Finance and Operations Manager Maria Carpenter, and representatives from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council will join the team at M&S Merthyr to help give a makeover to an outdoor space at Adref, a local homelessness charity, while also revealing the benefits of the new pilot scheme in Merthyr. Volunteers from the store will be working together to transform the space into a unique and safe area for residents to enjoy. Adref began its commitment to eradicating homelessness in the South Wales Valleys in 1990 and has since provided short term accommodation and support to hundreds of rough sleepers across Merthyr.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Chief Executive Gareth Chapman said:
“The authority is delighted that we are the first town in Wales to benefit from M&S’ ambitious and exciting Plan A 2025. Since opening its doors in 2015, the M&S store and its staff team at Cyfarthfa Retail Park have embraced the community in many ways and become a central hub in the South Wales Valleys.
“As well as bringing a range of employment opportunities and quality shopping to Merthyr Tydfil, M&S has also shown that it is a truly ethical retailer. We’re very proud to be working with the company on this innovative project that will help further strengthen our communities.”
Steve Rowe, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer said:
“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.
“We’ve looked at what matters to communities, which are issues like access to work-place skills, social inclusion, support for mental health problems and believe we can play a key role and make a real difference to community life. We’re starting with ten so that we can learn, adapt and develop an agile approach that will allow us to support 1,000 communities by 2025.”
Alongside Merthyr Tydfil, the other nine 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, 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 is expected to include some or all of the following, as well as bespoke initiatives designed with Merthyr Tydfil Council:
- 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 and 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 in the seven communities in England by partnering with Power to Change to combine grants of up to £50,000 and access to skills and advice on topics such as business planning, supply chains, digital development and customer research. A similar programme with different partners will be developed for the three communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Investment in outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone. Proposals include urban gardens, high street flowerbeds, city tree planting and green walls that have the potential to benefit over 150,000 people in the 10 communities;
- 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 our stores will provide an estimated 30,000 meals to the homeless and people living in poverty in the 10 locations;
- Employee volunteering – kicking off this week with over 7,000 M&S colleagues from 650 stores and offices donating time to over 700 local community projects all over the UK over the next ten days.
Amanda MacKenzie, Chief Executive of Business in the Community, said:
“Healthy, prosperous communities need business as much as businesses need resilient, thriving communities. Business in the Community is delighted to be supporting M&S. They are leading The Prince’s Responsible Business Network with this exemplar programme bringing support into areas of greatest need across the UK. We very much look forward to working with them to engage many others and together, achieve the greatest impact possible, which is the foundation of Business in the Community.”
Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change, said: “We are extremely proud to team up with M&S and invest in making communities even stronger and more resilient. This is about realising that we can all achieve much more by working together. None of us have all the answers on our own. The social sector and the private sector can come together with local people to help them change the places where they live. Community businesses are already helping local people and local economies all over the country, and we look forward to joining forces with M&S to support the movement even more.”
David McCullough, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said:
“This programme is exactly in line with our belief that, by working together in partnerships, we can provide more of the practical help and contact that we all will need as we get older.”
More detail on the pilot community programme can be found here.
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 worktime 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 coming from healthier products by 2022;
- Helping to 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 Plan A 2025 progress every year in June and the commitments will be assured by independent auditors and M&S’ own audit team.
A full press release on Plan A 2025 can be found here.
The original Plan A programme launched 10 years ago and has since helped redefine the role of business in society. It has delivered 296 stretching 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.
More detail on Plan A progress can be found here.