India: M&S to focus on sustainable products

With the doors opening wider for branded retailers, UK-based food and clothing retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) sees India as its “single most important market”.

“We see scope for exciting new products that are sustainable and produced ethically,” Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business, M&S, told Business Line.
Green challenges

Conscious of the growing ‘green challenges’, especially across the supply chain, M&S has integrated a strategy, named Plan A, and is keen on its implementation in India. The British retailer has a partnership with Reliance Retail.

Plan A includes making M&S carbon-neutral, recycling clothing and packaging waste, getting raw material from sustainable sources and improving the lives thousands of people in their supply chains.

“Almost half a million of our workforce is in India, across supply chains,” said Barry. He said M&S had a project management team, which assessed all its products on the basis of a set of rules framed under Plan A.

“We understand that a polluting plant and ill-treated workers are not good for anyone,” he added.

On compliance issues of its warehouses here, Barry said regular audits were done after site visits to make sure that all norms were being followed.

“As of today 61 per cent of the clothing sold in India is sourced here, which was 55 per cent last year,” Barry said.

The British retailer’s Delhi outlets are sourced from its warehouse in Kundli, Haryana.

Asked about reports on child labour use in cotton fields in India, Barry expressed concern and said half of the fibre used by M&S was cotton. “With the Better Cotton Initiative project, funded by the Dutch Government and partnered by M&S, Nike, Ikea, Levi’s among others, we plan to improve the environmental and ethical standards of cotton production,” he said.

At present, in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, the company is working with 9,000 farmers, with trainers helping farmers produce good quality crop with reduced use of water and pesticides. “We plan to raise this number to 25,000 farmers,” Barry said, adding that the retailer planned to raise cotton sourcing from India to 64,000 tonnes.

“By 2020, every M&S product will have Plan A built into it with no cost passed on to consumers,” he added.


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