This isn't just eco-friendly ...

While the announcement, and the cost associated with it, is significant, the news that Marks & Spencer is to spend £200m over five years positioning itself as the UK's greenest retailer is no real surprise.

If there is another major British brand in the ascendancy, whose customers would lap up the idea of high-profile environmental lead-taking, we can't think of one. While most businesses would baulk at the idea of spending the equivalent of £40m a year to improve its environmental reputation, for M&S it simply provides yet another fillip to its recent outstanding business renaissance.

Make no mistake: this is an important piece of marketing activity for M&S, with a great deal of thought put into how it fits with, and will enhance, the retailer's brand perception among the public, investors and the media. Recent in-store and advertising activity proclaiming the company's credentials on green packaging and its sustainable product sourcing has lifted the brand and product sales; in the light of the latest announcement, however, that work has clearly been little more than a supporting act.

The retailer's chief executive, Stuart Rose, has unveiled an 'eco-plan' that includes no fewer than 100 action points, from becoming carbon-neutral - principally from energy usage reduction - and a commitment to send no waste to landfill by 2012, to improving sourcing and ethical trading and helping customers and employees lead healthier lifestyles.

It has already been pointed out that the carbon footprint of M&S is relatively low compared with businesses in other industries, yet that does a disservice to the effect that the actions of M&S and our other major retailers will have on commerce generally. Aside from the immediate effect on supply chains, yet more significant will be the change in public environmental expectations of all businesses.

In his announcement of 'Plan A' - apparently, 'there is no Plan B' - Rose observed that this will be the year in which the whole environmental debate will snowball. It is not the first such claim, but with M&S, Tesco, Virgin, HSBC and BSkyB all lining up behind the climate change cause, there is a growing belief that environmentalism could finally be going mainstream.

It is safe to assume that M&S' announcement was not made without due consideration to the effect that it would have on the company's share price, not least as it was accompanied by a promise that the cost would not be passed on to customers - and it is here that there is some evidence to support Rose's claim.

At the time of writing, M&S' share price was up 4.5% on the day. Had the £200m been of a different flavour, but with a similar short-term hit to revenues, the share price would have headed rapidly in the other direction. I am reminded of James Murdoch's 2004 announcement to the City that BSkyB would spend heavily, including on marketing and advertising, to drive subscriber numbers - and the rapid sell-off of shares that ensued.

And so it is that M&S and Rose have exposed, early in 2007, that there is a significant appetite among consumers and the City for brands that are prepared to build their environmental credentials in a way that will equip them better for long-term survival. The reception for this 'eco-plan' will ensure that others are not far behind.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA