Working towards a sustainable environment

There is no longer any ‘low hanging fruit’ and innovation is going to be required to help with sustainability challenges in the future, according to Marks & Spencer’s research and development manager Oliver Knowles.

M&S has embedded innovation as part of their Plan A strategy

M&S has embedded innovation as part of their Plan A strategy

Speaking at the Innovation Theatre on the first day of edie Live, Knowles also said when looking at pilot projects, and the potential impact of emissions on selecting technological solutions, M&S would not do anything “if it has negative impact on customers in store” but would “try to put climate change into our thinking as much as we can”.

Talking about some of the retailer’s success stories, Knowles mentioned the shelf edge technology, which was developed by F1 teams and pushed back cold air – making a barrier between the warm air of the store and the fridge. He also mentioned LED lighting replacement as another scheme where innovation had enabled wins in terms of emissions and sustainability targets.

The various refrigeration and energy efficiency schemes that M&S have put in place have enabled the retailer to keep in line with its Science-based Target Initiative (SBTi) and its ‘Plan A’ programme of 29 targets to tackle climate change. In 2017, the firm’s SBTi was set to further efficiency of operations and cut 13.3m tonnes of CO2e from its value chain. The company also invests in carbon offsetting for its global operation to remain carbon neutral.


Speaking on the same panel on energy innovation, Vice-president of sustainability at Equinor  Charlotte Wolff-Bye spoke about the Norwegian oil and gas company’s plans to innovate on energy and to reduce its carbon emissions.

She said that increasingly companies did see a “business dividend in embracing sustainability” and that the large challenges facing the sector can be overcome – although not overnight.

Wolff-Bye said renewables “don’t exist at full force yet” and, referencing climate protests recently, she said that “fossil fuels are intrinsic to everybody’s lives – we need to work together rather than through some binary choices” to make a difference.

She referenced Equinor’s plans to reduce the carbon intensity of a barrel of oil to 1kg against a global average of 18kg. “If all oil companies did this, it would be the equivalent to all of the coal in China per year,” she said.

Wolff-Bye also spoke about the huge offshore floating wind farms that the company has developed off the British coastline and off Norway. The Hywind Pilot Park in Scotland has turbines floating on the water – removing the restriction of wind farms having to be on a continental shelf, and thus allowing for various international locations. 

James Evison