Using Marks & Spencer as an example, there are certain practices other organizations can similarly apply to improve focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability. The UK retailer has made a number of successful moves towards embedding social and environmental awareness and practices into its everyday strategic vision. In this Idea, these are analyzed and discussed, offering companies tips they can similarly apply.
Sustainable business practices are in the spotlight more than ever before, as awareness of the environmental and economic aspects to resource management keeps increasing. It’s changing the way businesses work and strategize, bringing a new way to deliver competitive edge to the table.
The case for incorporating sustainability practices within an organization is constantly expounded. In this Idea, the example of British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) provides insight into how to do so based on their success. By setting itself the ambitious goal of becoming “the most sustainable major global retailer” by 2015, the company has placed itself in a position whereby others can learn much from them in this context.
Though the M&S has always had strong values and a ‘paternalistic’ approach to doing business, it could not avoid hitting a low during the late 1990s. A hostile takeover bid in 2004 led to a change in leadership but the bid was eventually fought off; however, this also sparked a general overhaul, and it began moving towards embedding higher standards of environmental and social performance across the organization.
Most significantly, ‘Plan A’ was launched, which demonstrates all of the six core behaviours identified by the 2010 Accenture/UNGC Survey of CEOs as key to embedding corporate responsibility and sustainability within a company. These are:
The manner in which Marks & Spencer has proceeded to implement ‘Plan A’ can be broken down to provide other organizations significant insight on doing the same. For example:
Other actions include detailed annual progress reports, identification of achieved targets, reporting to key external sustainability stakeholders, and developing traditional company-charity relationships into mutually beneficial partnerships.
Embedding Corporate Responsibilty and Sustainability: Marks & Spencer. David Grayson. Journal of Management Development (2011). DOI: 10.1108/02621711111182510
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