This is the last blog post of a series of three uncovering key insights from the recent stakeholder study on transparency that GlobeScan conducted for Marks & Spencer (M&S).
After defining what corporate transparency really means and assessing the state of corporate performance in this area, we are now closing our blog series with a deep dive into M&S’ response to the survey findings.
Here are three ways in which M&S is using stakeholder feedback to improve its transparency:
1. Bringing context to the data: The study showed that beyond data and targets, stakeholders expect companies to talk more broadly about their business issues (e.g. what are the strategic risks and opportunities at stake for the business) as well as the strategies, corporate plans, governance and decision-making systems in place to address these risks, and how all of this relates to the bigger business purpose and vision of the company. Taking this feedback on board, M&S has improved the structure of the Plan A Report 2015 and has begun to refresh the Plan A website to make it easier for stakeholders to find the information that most interests them more quickly. For example, an improved landing page has been introduced providing stakeholders with three options to select depending on what they want to know about – whether it’s stories that bring Plan A to life, to get more involved in Plan A, or learn more about how they approach sustainability.
2. Focusing on supply chain issues: Online survey results indicated that expectations of transparency on supply chain issues (followed by consumption issues) are set to strongly increase in the next five years; 67 percent of online respondents think expectations of transparency on how M&S products are sourced will increase during that time period, while 37 percent believe that this will also be the case for how M&S products are made. As a first step to address these increasing expectations, M&S has now published details of how Plan A product attributes are identified and measured. Within the Plan A Report 2015, M&S has also included examples of how the company is addressing environmental and social “hotspots” within their supply chain.
3. Investing in stakeholder dialogue and collaboration: As we mentioned when kicking off this blog series, stakeholders expect two-way dialogue when it comes to transparency. Ultimately, stakeholders look for collaboration that effectively solves issues and drives progress. This means that transparency cannot be dealt with in isolation; it has to be integrated in a wider stakeholder engagement approach. To further drive stakeholder collaboration, M&S has recently launched a platform – the Plan A Challenges website – which invites people in retail, business, and academia to help solve real live challenges facing the company on its journey to sustainable business.
Aside from these three improvements, M&S has also commenced a review of its business to identify opportunities for improved transparency.
Stakeholder engagement is an ongoing process, going beyond the M&S Stakeholder Transparency Study. Stay tuned for a GlobeScan / M&S webinar in the fall where Chris Coulter, GlobeScan co-CEO, will be joined by Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S, to discuss progress made by the company on its journey to be recognised as a leader on transparency within the retail sector.
The M&S Stakeholder Transparency Study was conducted using a dual-methodology: n=14 in-depth interviews were carried out with a selected group of experts to obtain qualitative views on transparency trends and implications (from January 12th to February 13th, 2015) and n=172 stakeholders including academics, NGOs/think tanks, media, consultants, corporates, SRI analysts and financial institutions took part in an online survey (from January 12th to 2nd February, 2015), thus providing hard quantitative data. Experts and stakeholders invited to take part in this study were jointly identified by GlobeScan and M&S.