Gregory Barker, U.K.’s minister of energy and climate change
The United Kingdom’s minister of energy and climate change, Gregory Barker, held up Marks & Spencer plc as a prime example of the benefits of abiding by the adage “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
Speaking at a Metro Atlanta Chamber breakfast meeting May 10, Mr. Barker said that the London-based luxury foods and clothing retailer saved 70 million pounds ($110 million) in 2011 from its sustainability initiative.
Mr. Barker visited Atlanta with a delegation representing a cross section of energy conscious companies looking for partnerships in the Southeast.
“We came on the strong recommendation of the British Consulate General for the Southern U.S.,” he told GlobalAtlanta in an interview after the breakfast. “Consul General Annabelle Malins said that if you’re leading a cleantech trade mission then Atlanta is a must-go-to destination.”
Mr. Barker was further encouraged to visit Atlanta because his government seeks to make the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as green an event as possible, and wanted to learn as much as possible from Atlanta’s experience with the 1996 games.
Over the course of two days, the delegation met with representatives of local companies, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and theGeorgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute to learn as much as possible about local green initiatives.
The metro chamber readily points to the Washington-based Brookings Institution’s selection of Atlanta as a leading “clean city” in the nation with 43,000 employees working in cleantech and sustainability sector jobs.
Mr. Barker’s boss, British Prime Minister David Cameron, has made sustainability a major focus of his administration, pledging to make it “the greenest government ever.”
Business and environmental groups have contested Mr. Cameron’s recent assertion that his government has fulfilled its aggressive green objectives.
But Mr. Barker is quick to defend the achievements of both his government and British companies in their pursuit of environmentally friendly practices.
“Energy efficiency is the absolute no-brainer for cutting costs,” Mr. Barker explained, but cautioned that long-term success depends on more than just turning off the lights.
“There has to be consistent leadership that’s embedded through the organization,” he added. “That was the clear message that came from Marks & Spencer, you have to keep on with the agenda.”
Marks & Spencer’s green initiatives began in 2007 and are a primary focus for the company, involving all of its 78,000 employees from delivery drivers to board members.
Its 180-point sustainability plan includes paperless billing, hanger recycling, dual-fuel vehicles, refrigeration upgrades, reducing food waste, adopting new textile fabrics, installing energy efficient electrical products, more efficient packaging, and many other methods.
The retailer also reaches out to its customers, encouraging them to adopt green practices such as washing clothes at lower temperatures, holding clothing donation drives, and sponsoring conservation volunteer days.
Since their launch in 2007, these initiatives cost Marks & Spencer 200 million ponds ($318 million) over five years. But by 2008, the company announced that the plan was breaking even. In 2010, according to the company, it saved 50 million pounds ($78 million) and in 2011, 70 million pounds ($110 million).
The British retailer offers selections in free trade clothing in keeping with its sustainability image, and free-range food products like wild-caught salmon and eggs.
The company is also doing a 10 million pound a year business in “Percy Pigs” in the U.K. alone. The little fruit-flavored confectionery pigs have become a cult classic in Britain, with over 245,000 friends on the “Percy Pig” Facebook page.
Marks & Spencer operates stores in more than 40 countries and is aggressively expanding in India, the Middle East, and China.
Although the company ships to North America, there are no plans to open physical locations in the U.S.
For more information, contact the British consulate for at (404)954-7700, or go here.
Read source: http://www.globalatlanta.com/article/25546/