Kudos to CSR Warriors at UK's Marks & Spencer for Plan A

While consumers are leading much of the change that's afoot in CSR programs and companies worldwide, it takes a responsive organization to listen. And for the initiatives to have staying power, they require buy-in at the trenches and the top management tiers, along with a whole lot of stakeholder engagement. So I was delighted to find out what UK's Marks & Spencer, one of the UK's leading retailers of clothing, food, home products and financial services, is  doing to engender trust and responsibility that's got authenticity behind it.

Kudos to Executive Chairman Sir Stu Rose and to Plan A, CSR and Sustainability Business Director Richard Gillies and to the managers and employees who participated in a brainstorm activity that generated more than 200 social and environmental issues that the company faced. The narrowed down the list to 100 challenges across five categories that they're looking to change by 2012.

They've been working on what they call Plan A since 2007 ("Because there is no Plan B"). The five categories of 100 challenges that make up Plan A include: climate change, waste, natural resources, fair partnerships and health and well-being. Marks & Spencer is already meeting 45 of the original 100 commitments they're looking to achieve in this five-year period. But they're not resting on their CSR laurels; they're actually adding another 80 new commitments across those five categories to the original list of 100 from 2007. Their goal is to engage all of their 21 million customers with Plan A, and they plan on helping 3 million of those customers to create their own personal Plan A by 2020.

Ultimately, Marks & Spencer is looking to claim the spot of world's most sustainable major retailer by 2015. Perhaps the companies who have thus far been nominated as the top contenders in the Corporate Hall of Shame would do well to take a CSR training course with Marks & Spencer.

"We've always said that we can't make Plan A work alone--and this is still the case," writes Rose. "That's why we'll continue to work in partnership with suppliers, NGOs, the science community, governments and other businesses to deliver the innovation and changes needed to make sustainability a reality." A tour of their website and their published Plan A offers extensive information on how the company is putting its money where it's mouth is in the five categories that make up the "pillars" of Plan A. I'd encourage social entrepreneurs and corporate CSR officers to drop by and see how this company is making a difference.