M&S Plan A - 10 years on. Robert Nuttall reflects its origins in America Retail magazine


Robert Nuttall was one of the architects of Plan A and his reflections today in America Retail speak to the importance of conviction, boldness and commitment.

I love this little excerpt from Mike Barry, M&S's Director of Sustainable Business;  

As they raced towards implementation, Robert Nuttall, realised they’d created a massive, complex plan but had forgotten to come up with a way of communicating it.

“Literally two nights before we launched it, he [Robert] looked across at me and said, ‘Mike, you’ve got this hundred-point M&S sustainability plan, and that’s great. Well done. Greenpeace will love it. But it will mean nothing to 32 million customers or 83,000 colleagues. Give me a little bit of money. I’ll go away and help you invent a brand,’” Barry recalls. “He came back with, ‘Plan A, Because There is no Plan B."

A few weeks ago we attended the relaunch of M&S Plan A commitments - this time through to 2025. The big shift is from a plan that is largely focussed on targets and interested stakeholders to one that connects directly to what customers really care about. M&S were Fortitude Partners clients,

To build a truly sustainable M&S we have to listen to our customers and ensure that they are engaged fully in Plan A.
— Steve Rowe, CEO (from Plan a 2025)

This is a shift we're seeing in other sophisticated organisations, some of whom we're advising. It comes from a recognition that much of the basis has been acheived, driven cost and mitigated risk. But now the growth opportunity by connecting with customers is massive.

"We've achieved and learnt so much, delivered 296 commitments and received more than 240 awards in the last ten years - but this was just a dress rehearsal for the enormous, disruptive steps that M&S and every other business will need to take in the next decade to become truly sustainable."

— Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business




Maddie Stone