Marks & Spencer have announced a major community transformation programme as part of Plan A 2025 – its new plan to support 1,000 communities, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.

Steve Rowe

Steve Rowe

The landmark programme will see M&S work with local councils and charity partners to support communities to deliver positive, measurable change.

Initially piloted in ten communities over the next two years, when M&S will trial a range of actions designed to tackle the issues that matter most to communities – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, and mental health and wellbeing. Successful initiatives will be rolled out to a further 100 locations by 2023 and learnings will be shared with 1,000 locations by 2025.  

Steve Rowe, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer said: “Marks & Spencer has been at the forefront of social change for 133 years and we’re determined to play a leading role in the years ahead by taking positive action to enable customers and communities to live happier, healthier lifestyles.

“Through our UK-wide store network we are seeing more and more evidence that communities need support from partners, like M&S, to positively deliver change.

“We’ve looked at what matters to communities, which are issues like access to work-place skills, social inclusion, support for mental health problems and believe we can play a key role and make a real difference to community life. We’re starting with ten so that we can learn, adapt and develop an agile approach that will allow us to support 1,000 communities by 2025.”

The ten communities M&S is currently in discussions with are Birmingham (focusing on Handsworth and Handsworth Wood), Bradford, Glasgow (focusing on Easterhouse), Liverpool (focusing on Toxteth and Dingle), Derry~Londonderry, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, London Borough of Newham, Norwich and Rochdale.

M&S will trial a series of locally tailored initiatives in these areas that will aim to improve the social wellbeing and happiness of residents by working with The Social Innovation Partnership to track how residents feel about their community – how positive they are, if they are connected to others and whether they feel part of the community.

To deliver the initiatives M&S will work with local councils and partners including Business In The Community, Royal Voluntary Service, The Silver Line, Power to Change, Frazzled Cafe and Neighbourly. Each of the 10 locations will have a programme of activities that is expected to include some or all of the following, as well as bespoke initiatives:

  • Support for children starting school, including 10,000 pairs of plimsolls;
  • Careers advice, CV and interview support and work experience for school leavers; 
  • A plan to create the biggest friendship group in the area to tackle loneliness and exclusion by bringing together customers, colleagues and local people through events at M&S stores such as tea parties and walking clubs and a network of volunteer phone buddies;
  • Hosting Frazzled Cafes for those feeling stressed or in need of support;
  • Support for up to 100 start-up community businesses that are led by and for the benefit of local people in the seven communities in England by partnering with Power to Change to combine grants of up to £50,000 and access to skills and advice on topics such as business planning, supply chains, digital development and customer research. A similar programme with different partners will be developed for the three communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
  • Investment in outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone. Proposals include urban gardens, high street flowerbeds, city tree planting and green walls that have the potential to benefit over 150,000 people in the 10 communities; 
  • Grants to support food surplus charities to fund fridges and cool bags to ensure they can redistribute fresh food and providing volunteers to host special events throughout the year – every year our stores will provide an estimated 30,000 meals to the homeless and people living in poverty in the 10 locations;
  • Employee volunteering – kicking off this week with over 7,000 M&S colleagues from 650 stores and offices donating time to over 700 local community projects all over the UK over the next ten days.

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