Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2012 (Revised June 2013)

Tough Decisions at Marks and Spencer

by Robert G. Eccles, George Serafeim and Kyle Armbrester

Abstract

In 2007, under the leadership of CEO Stuart Rose, the iconic British retailer Marks and Spencer, with great fanfare, announced its "Plan A" initiative. Based on the five essential pillars of climate change, waste, sustainable materials, fair partnership, and health, the plan sought to transform the company's practices. By 2012, the program's aim was to ensure that M&S was carbon neutral and sent no waste to landfill. It also aimed to help its customers and employees achieve a healthier lifestyle, and to improve the lives of all involved in the company's supply chain with fair wages, as well as improved working hours and conditions. Called Plan A "because there is no Plan B," the company identified 180 projects to improve the sustainability of its operations and business practices in anticipation of the need for a very different business model in the future. Key aspects of Plan A included more sustainable sourcing and influencing the business practices of the company's supply chain; communication to employees, customers and investors; and employee engagement. The case concludes with the tradeoffs involved in the decision of whether or not to install refrigerator doors in the grocery section of its stores. While the energy savings and reduced carbon emissions are relatively clear and easy to measure, the impact on customers and revenues is harder to assess.

Keywords: Decision Making; Environmental Sustainability; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Corporate Strategy; Retail Industry;

Citation:

Eccles, Robert G., George Serafeim, and Kyle Armbrester. "Tough Decisions at Marks and Spencer." Harvard Business School Case 112-062, January 2012. (Revised June 2013.)