Laurel Brunners Verdigris Blog: Retail Sector Setting the Scene

Marks & Spencer, a global retailer best known for knickers, socks and divine foods, has recently reported on progress with its Plan A. The 107 environmental commitments enshrined in this plan were originally outlined in 2014, with a goal of achieving them all by 2025. So far 64 have been achieved with a further 25 on track, 11 lagging and six apparently abandoned. The global graphics industry has many reasons to engage with Marks & Spencer from signage and packaging, through to commercial print applications, so being aware of Plan A might help when bidding for new business or striving to hold on to existing work.

The Plan includes social as well as environmental goals, and this has meant that 80% of the company’s products can now be deemed to have an enhanced ecological or ethical quality. Marks & Spencer has trained over 800,000 people in its supply chain to comply with Plan A goals and has reduced overall waste by 28%. It has announced that all electricity the company uses comes from renewable sources and that 27% of its gas consumption has been replaced with bio-methane. Marks & Spencer operates as zero waste to landfill business and is the only major retailer in the UK that is carbon neutral.

But where in all this is print? Plan A does not include much information about how Marks & Spencer is managing print buying operations, so that the print they invest in is more environmentally friendly. But it does say in Plan A that “we will be ensuring that all the packaging we put on the market is easy to recycle”. Note the future tense. This is an excellent reason for graphics professionals, including designers and printers, to prick up their ears. Design is more important for packaging than for almost any graphics application, so helping Marks & Spencer to fulfil this part of Plan A will require materials and ink awareness, as well as an understanding of different print processes.

Retailers are the first line of attack when it comes to improving environmental impact awareness, so it is fantastic that Marks & Spencer is working to such an ambitious plan. Successful partnering with companies like this will be a powerful means of improving print’s environmental accountability. Partnering to achieve common goals is also a means of helping large print buyers to manage their own environmental aspects, especially those associated with print.

Laurel Brunner




This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift,  Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

Laurel Brunner

Laurel specialises in digital prepress, digital production and digital printing and is managing director Digital Dots ( She provides international editorial, consulting and educational services to a wide cross section of publishers, manufacturers and industry associations. Laurel also participates several ISO working groups developing standards for the graphics industry and convenes a group responsible for standards relating to the environmental impact of graphics technology, including print media.

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