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LONDON: Following retailer Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) mid-year report of a £135 million saving in 2012 as a result of its Plan A sustainability programme, the company has announced a partnership with UK charity Cool Earth to protect one million Amazon rainforest trees.

Mike Barry, M&S director of Plan A at M&S, commented: “It’s been another six months of good progress including some great achievements, addressing tough challenges and breakthrough projects. We’re tackling some of the biggest issues in sustainable business such as youth unemployment, clothes going to landfill and engaging consumers in more sustainable living and are very proud of what we’ve delivered. It’s making M&S a better business."

The Cool Earth project will protect 5,000 acres of rainforest in Peru by empowering indigenous communities to adopt financially and environmentally sustainable land-use policies.

The three-year partnership with M&S will support Cool Earth’s Ashaninka project, 300 miles east of Lima, Peru. The area is west of the Mato Grosso where much of the forest has already been lost to soya and cattle agriculture.
The M&S investment will tip the balance away from clearing forest for soya, ranching and plantations by giving indigenous communities control over their forest and boosting the incomes they make from sustainable harvesting of forest products such as coffee, cocoa, Brazil nuts and ashiotti seeds (used in beauty products).  The company says keeping 5,000 acres of forest intact will prevent 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Based in Cornwall, Cool Earth is supported and endorsed by a range of environmental experts including Sir David Attenborough and Sir Nicholas Stern (author of The Stern Report). Cool Earth’s aim is to protect 10 million acres of rainforest by 2016.
Barry added: “We are also very conscious that we’re only part way through our journey of making M&S a sustainable, international multi-channel retail business. That’s why we’re currently working closely with our external Sustainable Retail Advisory Board to develop a series of new social and environmental goals to further strengthen Plan A and, in turn, our business.”cambodia

One example he cites is a new health campaign (right) in Cambodia with US NGO Project HOPE to educate 14,000 garment workers better deal with common health issues.  The goal is to create a model that can be rolled out to M&S clothing suppliers across the world to deal with the specific health needs in different countries.

Laura Hawkesford, ethical trading manager at Marks & Spencer explained: “The project is helping us develop policies, procedures and materials that will enable us to roll out a health education campaign across all our sourcing territories. We’re already making a difference in Cambodia and it makes good sense to be a fair partner by ensuring good working conditions for everyone in our supply chains. This includes making sure our suppliers can offer the best possible advice and facilities on health which in turn boosts attendance, worker retention, happiness and productivity.”

Plan A is Marks & Spencer’s eco and ethical programme that aims to make it the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015. Launched in 2007 and extended in March 2010, it takes a holistic approach to sustainability focusing on involving customers, involving all areas of the business and tackling issues such as climate change, waste, raw materials, health and being a fair partner."

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