Posted by keith on 29th February 2008
If you are one of the most successful retailers in an economically rich country then, when you say you are going to become environmentally friendly, that can only really mean one thing: going out of business. Retailers won’t admit that, of course, which is why they insist that “going green” is just a case of lowering their environmental impact, but being able to carry on selling loads of unnecessary products to people who have been brainwashed into thinking they need them by the adverts those same retailers keep running in the media.
Marks and Spencer, a very large and very well thought of UK retailer, is doing more than most, admittedly. In January 2007 they launched Plan A, the inference being that there was “no Plan B”. Plan A, according to M&S, is doing everything necessary to protect the planet, because we only have one. Plan A is also about preventing Plan B from becoming necessary because, although they won’t admit it, Plan B is commercial suicide. Plan B is admitting we don’t need to go shopping.
This week — with huge fanfare — M&S promised to massively reduce their customers’ use of plastic bags. By giving away 280 million less bags a year (a 70% reduction), through charging for them, M&S would save 3,400 tonnes of plastic from being produced. I then had a little search and found this in an M&S business report:
Of the 100,000 tonnes of packaging we use a year, some 79,000 tonnes relates to food packaging.
Hang on! If plastic bags only account 4,800 tonnes of plastic at M&S, then that is only 5% of the packaging that they produce. So why are M&S making such a big deal about plastic bags?
The reason is that the public have been made to think that they can really make a big difference to their environmental footprint by not using plastic bags. This costs the retailers nothing, in fact they save money, and can even make a little on the side by getting customers to pay for reusable
In the meantime, the public keep shopping: the goods keep getting made, transported and thrown away, and the economy keeps rolling on, using up more and more resources as it goes.
M&S Chief Executive, Stuart Rose is jubilant:
We’ve made good progress on Plan A. We’ve a lot more to do, but we remain committed to delivering the goals we’ve set. More and more of our employees and suppliers see Plan A as a way of helping us all innovate and do things differently. For example, we originally began working with our suppliers to open three ‘eco’ factories. Now we have plans for several more, including our first in China.
Oh yes! Factories in China. That’s most definitely in the spirit of Plan A.