The Marks & Start programme gives the opportunity of work experience to a range of people including the young unemployed, people with disabilities, the homeless, parents returning to work, students who are the first in their families to aim for higher education and school students.
The company Marks & Spencer (M&S) is one of the UK's leading retailers of clothing, food, home products and financial services. Ten million people shop each week in over 375 M&S stores in the UK. In addition M&S has 155 stores managed under franchise in 28 territories, mostly in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, as well as stores in the Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong and a US supermarket group, Kings Super Markets. The company is structured in business units covering food and general merchandise. The general merchandise unit is further divided into women’s clothing, menswear, lingerie, beauty and home. These units all contribute to the company’s vision ‘to be the standard against which others are measured’. Central to the running of these units are the values of M&S. These include quality, value, service, innovation and trust. Each business unit develops its own CSR strategy based around the brand value of trust. The issues tackled in the strategies are identified from a combination of customer research, understanding within the business and by talking with other key stakeholders, NGOs, government etc. For each issue an action plan is developed which balances customer and stakeholder expectations and other commercial pressures. For example, for food, 16 issues have been identified ranging from pesticides to labour standards.
The issues are grouped into three general areas: people – its own employees, and those employed in its supply chain; products – with an emphasis on producing high quality, value for money goods that have positive environmental and social benefits; and community – this category recognises the company’s role in helping to create and maintain places within which to work and live. For each of the three areas M&S has a programme of work. The drivers The founders of M&S believed that building good relationships with employees, suppliers and wider society was the best guarantee of long-term success. This remains the backbone of its approach to CSR. Since those early days M&S has built up a reputation as a trustworthy company. Trust is one of its core values and its approach to CSR focuses on maintaining and enhancing trust. In the past, before CSR was a defined concept, much of M&S’s work on environmental and social issues was through philanthropic gifts to charity work. However more recently there has been a move away from this traditional philanthropic giving as the company wanted to be more involved in the impact of its funding, with more of a focus on customers, staff and those producing its goods. This was a key driver for the launch of several CSR initiatives on health, employability and the environment in the last 5 years.
Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series, September 2005
“Our approach was further influenced by events that affected food and people’s trust in food retailers, such as BSE and other health scares. These events caused customers to raise their expectations of us to act responsibly”, said Katie Stafford M&S’s Sustainable Development Manager. This led to M&S’s firm belief that CSR can deliver a point of difference on the issue of trust between other retailers and themselves. This case study focuses on the company’s flagship community programme, Marks & Start. Taking action In 2001, M&S consulted with all its employees and through market research it also asked its customers about the focus of its community programme. The response was unequivocal – employment was a key issue on which to focus. As a result Ready for Work – a partnership programme with Business in the Community (an organisation that works with companies to improve their impact on society) – was...