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M&S unveils carbon-neutral target

High Street chain Marks & Spencer has announced a £200 mln, (€303.7 mln) five-year plan to make the company carbon neutral.

Under its "eco-plan", the company says it will cut energy consumption, stop using landfill sites and stock more products made from recycled materials. CEO Stuart Rose, who has overseen a recovery in M&S's fortunes, said the project would "change beyond recognition" the way it operated. He insisted extra costs under the plan would not be passed on to customers. Rose, who took over as chief executive three years ago, told the BBC that it was "a massive plan". „I don't say it's not without risk,” he said. „What we're saying, effectively, is look, we believe responsible business can be profitable business.” Businesses or homes which offset the carbon emissions they produce, by planting trees for example, are described as being carbon neutral.

M&S said the carbon savings it aimed to achieve under its plan would be like taking 100,000 cars off the road each year. As well as cutting energy and using more renewable materials, M&S will aim to source its food from the UK and the Republic of Ireland as a „priority” in an attempt to reduce air freight. Labels will identify food that has been flown into the UK. „We don't have all the answers but we are determined to work with our suppliers, partners and government to make this happen,” said Rose. „Doing anything less is not an option.” He added: „We will become carbon neutral, only using offsetting as a last resort. We will ensure that none of our clothing products or packaging needs to be thrown away.”

M&S was advised on its new environmental policy by former Friends of the Earth director Jonathon Porritt. „This plan raises the bar for everyone else - not just retailers but businesses in every sector,” said Porritt. Under its plan, much of the chain's polyester clothing will be made from recycled plastic bottles, instead of oil, and millions of garments will be made from fair trade cotton, he said. M&S will also trial the use of food waste to power its 500-plus stores across the UK. News of the plan comes days after Rose finally acknowledged a „recovery” at the iconic chain after a sales surge in the lead up to Christmas. The retailer said like-for-like sales - which ignore sales at new stores - in the October to December period were up 5.6% on the similar period a year ago. The company's share price has risen steadily over the past 15 months as its fortunes have improved, but until last week Rose had refused to use what he calls „the R-word”. (BBC NEWS)