Monday, January 15, 2007


What is significant about Marks & Spencer's announcement of a five-year "eco-plan" today is not so much the plan itself - though its scope is impressively wide-ranging and its incorporation of checkable targets laudable. No, as the BBC's Business Editor Robert Peston points out, it's the thinking that has prompted the adoption of the plan in the first place.

On the one hand, it is depressing that decisions regarding environmentally and ethically conscious practices haven't been taken for their own sake. However, the fact that M&S and its chief exec Stuart Rose are convinced that the plan makes sound business sense is nevertheless enormously encouraging.

Big business has long been suspicious of and resistant to measures designed to protect the environment in the long term because they are perceived to have an unacceptably negative impact upon profit margins in the short term - so it's significant that Rose feels the changes brought about by the implementation of the plan will actually pay for themselves (the costs won't be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices) and indeed create extra revenue.

It'll be interesting to see how it all works out, and whether other business leaders hear Rose talking about environmentally conscious practices in the only language they understand (that of money), but in the meantime fair play to M&S for being the first major British retailer to make a meaningful move.

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