Marks & Spencer’s goal was to implement 100 projects in five years to make the company’s operations more sustainable across the board. Plan A started in 2007 and the company completed enough projects during the program’s first couple of years that Marks & Spencer added 80 more, Mowat said.
Efforts included reducing energy use in store refrigerators and developing food products to help consumers eat more healthfully.
“It’s good for business,” Mowat said. He said Marks & Spencer found it ended up making money as a result of its sustainability efforts.
After the presentations, Shelman led a discussion among panelists and an audience question-and-answer session.
Rodoni, Klaassen and Mowat stressed the importance of long-term thinking and being willing to take risky moves when venturing into sustainability.
“We were responding to industry requests for reporting on our sustainability effort,” Rodoni said. “We look for the good business case (for sustainability efforts) and then report out the environmental benefits.”
One audience member asked how companies should deal with different definitions of or approaches to sustainability.
Mowat said that at one level, differences in standards and methods don’t matter as long as companies start examining their operations.
“I think that’s the most important thing — that people start measuring stuff.”
“I think it’s important not to compare one farming operation to another,” she said.
Instead, compare the company to itself and measure progress toward sustainable practices over time, Rodoni said.