An Edinburgh shopwindow

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Saving
the world – or at least addressing the concerns regarding the key
issues – has gone mainstream in the United Kingdom. This is a window
display at Marks and Spencers on Princes Street in Edinburgh – yes,
back in Yorkshire after my birthday weekend trip to Scotland. Plan A by Marks and Spencers is more than just a promotional campaign, they’ve incorporated their 5 commitments – to address climate change, waste, health, fair trade and sustainability – into their corporate brand philosophy. Here’s a snippet,

A quick run-down of M&S’s green & eco ideas looks like this:

  • Stop sending waste to landfill sites by 2012
  • Improve energy efficiency by 25%
  • Power all stores using renewable energy
  • Trial the use of energy from food waste (anaerobic digestion)
  • Double the amount of locally-sourced food over the next 12 months
  • Reduce the amount of food imported by air
  • Use biofuels for its delivery trucks
  • Reduce packaging by 25%
  • Sell polyester clothing made from recycled bottles
  • Increase the amount of fairtrade cotton goods

When first launched, the campaign announcing their intentions was received with skeptism, particularly from long time sustainability supporters like my hostess Emma,
since M & S is a mainstream high street retailer in the UK, one
without any prior association with many of these issues unlike say The
Body Shop.

And its not just M&S, high street shopping in Britain seems to
point to  high levels of  global awareness amongst  the local populace.
Take  Fair Trade products for example – fair trade products are those
that do not squeeze the maximum profits through the entire supply chain
for commodities like coffee or sugar but instead serve to ensure that
the individual farmers in far flung Brazil or Columbia get a fair price
for their crops, one that will allow them to live beyond just basic
subsistence.

I’ll be writing more on each of these issues but did want to quickly
note that having just flown into the UK from San Francisco – possibly
the most aware part of the United States when it comes to the issues
covered in M&S’s Plan A above – that the UK is certainly seems to
be the global thought leader in all of these areas. Organic, green, eco
friendly et al are still niche or speciality products in much of the
rest of the world. Where else can you buy a pack of sweet corn in the
supermarket and the packaging tells you that it was grown in Senegal?

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