Since 2008 when Marks & Spencer started working with the charity Groundwork more than 1,200 employees and 10,000 people have helped transform over 200,000 square metres of underused or derelict land into green spaces.
Together, they have recently launched a campaign titled @myurbangreen to galvanise local people to care for these and other local green spaces. They hope to motivate 135,000 people to become involved to deliver at least 850 community events. Store managers, who already give up a considerable amount of their time to Groundwork, are likely to lead from the front. The initiatives are part of the retailer’s Plan A programme.
Community groups will be supported by a regional network of Groundwork green space experts who will be funded by M&S. They will be on hand to help with tips and ideas on how to identify and respond to local needs, recruit volunteers and design and deliver activities and events that raise the profile of their work.
The announcement is the latest development in the relationship between M&S and Groundwork – which last year opened the 100th ‘Greener Living Space’ – a network of new or improved green spaces at the heart of communities all over the country.
Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer, said “@myurbangreen is a new, exciting programme that will create a dynamic legacy in communities across the UK for the ‘Greener Living Spaces’ we have created with Groundwork. It will help local people take ownership of their green spaces and ensure they are fit for everyone to enjoy. It’s simple and effective way for our customers to get involved in supporting their local communities.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, Groundwork Chief Executive, added: “In Groundwork’s experience, people are very passionate about their community gardens, parks and play areas and value the many benefits they provide. However, now, more than ever before, we need to find increasingly creative ways of protecting these much loved local spaces.
“@myurbangreen will create a network of communities across the UK that have the skills, confidence and necessary expert support to roll up their sleeves and respond to local green space issues.”
Come this May, M&S employees will also turn their attention to Britain’s beaches with a massive clean-up operation with the Marine Conservation Society taking in 50 beaches up and down the country.
The clean-up is an essential part of Forever Fish, a campaign to help employees, customers and their children learn more about fish, clean British beaches and protect UK marine life. Currently, all of the profit from the sale of single use 5p food carrier bags now goes to Forever Fish. M&S is also investing over £1 million in WWF projects that help better manage UK fish stocks, such as cod, and protect important species like dolphins and turtles.
Samantha Fanshawe, Director of Marine Conservation Society, said: “Working with M&S offers a fantastic opportunity to protect our seas, shores and wildlife.”
Dax Lovegrove, Head of Business and Industry Relations at WWF, added: “WWF is continually working to address the over-use of natural resources by championing best practice in the sourcing of goods and driving sustainable retailing. Our partnership with M&S makes a significant contribution to these endeavours.”
Tanith Dodge, Director of Human Resources at Marks & Spencer, said: “Trust is one of the founding principles of M&S and through Plan A, it is embedded in the business. When we launched Plan A we were clear that it is not simply a CSR exercise – it is the way we do business.
“Employees need to trust the company they work for to act responsibly towards them as individuals, but increasingly employees want to be able to trust a business to act in the best interest of society. Plan A helps build that trust on the inside and it empowers employees to live a greener and healthier lifestyle. It also aids recruitment, helping position M&S as a company committed to doing the right thing.”