If you want to judge whether Sustainability has made it into a core business strategy, there is no better litmus test than a company’s shareholder Annual Report. Many companies that produce best-in-class Sustainability or CSR reports give scant mention of Sustainability when it comes to their shareholder communications. If the Board doesn't see it impacting shareholder value, how much time are they really devoting to it in the boardroom?
M&S is an outstanding example of a FTSE100 that communicates the same message across all its mediums. In its 2010/11 Annual Report, the Chairman devotes around a 1/3 of his statement to Plan A, saying "we know that putting Plan A at the heart of how we do business is not just the right thing to do; it is fundamental to our long term success". Not only is M&S identifying Sustainability as core strategy, but it is also engaging its investors.
The most important thing to understand about Plan A is that it is a change management programme. Not only is it generating £70m in profits, 10% of M&S’s pre-tax profits, but it is also preparing the company for a bright future. CEO Marc Bolland recently described Plan A as "the most successful motivational change management programme ever delivered within M&S, enabling people from different parts of the business and functions to work together for a common goal."
‘Change management’ is a rare business undertaking, and the challenges should not be underestimated. It involves transforming the organisation from a “current state to a desired future state”  – root and branch change. So what are the characteristics of Plan A that point to it being a change management programme? We’ve gone through its highly readable “How we do business report 2011”, and we’d single out 4 components;
1. Senior Management is visibly supportive of the programme. Initiated by Sir Stuart Rose, it has survived the transition to Marc Bolland, who speaks at the Plan A conferences and talks regularly in the media about the success of Plan A.
2. There is a clear strategy for engaging all major stakeholders, including customers, employees, senior management, its pension fund, suppliers and overseas franchisees.
3. Plan A has 180 different targets running right across the business, from business efficiency to developing products for new emerging ‘green’ markets, such as its home insulation service and even a low carbon bra. All areas seem to be infected by the change.
4. Plan A has a heavyweight Advisory Board, jointly chaired by the CEO and Jonathan Porritt, and including some non-executive Directors such as Martha Lane Fox. We know from GE’s Ecomagination and others how a senior Advisory Board can drive change.
Green Monday on the 5th September is an exceptional opportunity to challenge and question 3 key members of the Plan A team – Richard Gillies, Mike Barry and Adam Elman. With such a well documented strategy there is any number of questions, but we can see the evening touching on the following;
If you think there is an important question that needs asking then please do not hesitate to email me. We may start the Q&A session with a selection of advance questions, depending on the volume.
We’re very grateful for the M&S team for putting themselves up for the Green Monday format, and we hope the outputs can play a valuable role in the strategies of many.
If you haven't yet applied, you can apply through the usual channels here.
Chairman of Green Monday events
 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_management
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