Marks and Spencer likes to talk up its green credentials saying that it has no "Plan B". So, imagine my surprise and disappointment when I went into one of their motorway stores last week, looking for some English apples only to find that all the apples on sale were South African. This is October; this is England; the country is awash with the best apples in the world – English ones. So how do they explain this? I asked – and I was rather surprised by their response (the emphasis is mine):
Thank you for contacting us about the apples you saw for sale in one of our moto stores. I'm sorry you were disappointed to find that all of the apples for sale there were sourced from South Africa. Our decision to buy more of our products from overseas was based entirely on cost, and it means we can offer our customers the consistently high quality they expect of us, but still maintain really competitive prices.
Nothing here about Plan A at all – just cost. They then added this:
You may be interested to know that all of our suppliers are expected to meet our Global Sourcing Principles, and to encourage their own suppliers to implement them. This requires our suppliers to comply with national laws and to work towards the international labour laws contained in the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code. Our Global Sourcing Principles promote the right to freedom of association, requiring that workers are free to join lawful trade unions or workers’ associations, and the payment of national minimum wage. Any new suppliers who we conduct business with have to pass our audits on key issues such as underage labour, pay, working hours and health and safety.
Clearly, sustainability does not begin at home, even when English apples are at their best. I think this is madness.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Marks has been stripped of an award for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its refrigerators, in the latest edition of a long-running green ranking scheme. It was downgraded from leadership status by the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency when it comes to phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from its chillers and putting doors on them to save energy.
The G notes ...
Refrigeration accounts for around half of supermarkets’ energy consumption, and campaigners have been calling for years for a phase-out of HFCs to chill food and drink, as they can leak from the pipes of the refrigerating units into the atmosphere and act as a powerful greenhouse gas. Retailers are being urged to switch to so-called natural refrigeration, some of which uses CO2 instead. M&S came in for flak from the EIA for replacing many of its refrigeration units with hybrid HFC/CO2 units – which reduce emissions – instead of going entirely HFC-free. It was also chided for failing to roll out a 2011 pilot scheme to put doors on fridges in its stores.