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Embedding corporate responsibility and sustainability: Marks & Spencer

David Grayson (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 25 October 2011




The British retailer Marks & Spencer aspires to be the world's most sustainable major global retailer by 2015. This paper seeks to examine how the company is embedding sustainability.


The paper is written as part of an ongoing investigation into how businesses do this. It is based on direct dialogue with corporate sustainability specialists inside and outside the company; participation in company stakeholders' briefings held regularly since the launch of Marks & Spencer's Plan A for sustainability in January 2007; and analysis by the company's own corporate sustainability specialists about how they are embedding.


This case demonstrates that, in order to speed their journey, Marks & Spencer have aligned sustainability with core strategy. Top leadership is driving the strategy, which is overseen by the board. M&S have made a very public commitment: Plan A with measurable targets, timescales and accountabilities. The strategy is being integrated into every business function and strategic business unit; and involves suppliers, employees and increasingly customers. To enable implementation, the company is developing its knowledge‐management and training; engaging with wider stakeholders including investors; building partnerships and collaborations; and has evolved its specialist sustainability team into an internal change‐management consultancy and coach/catalyst for continuous improvement.


The value of the case study is that it provides an analysis of how one company, which has been active in progressing corporate sustainability, has evolved its approach in recent years.



Grayson, D. (2011), "Embedding corporate responsibility and sustainability: Marks & Spencer", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 30 No. 10, pp. 1017-1026.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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