Finding ethics on the high street

When I first starting living a more ‘green’ lifestyle it was pretty difficult to find products and brands that supported my values.

There were a handful of independently run businesses offering ethical products, sustainable sourced ingredients or services with integrity but they were few and far between.

Thankfully that is changing and the biggest challenge now seems to be deciding which companies to support from all of the ones out there and it’s even happening on the high street!

High street brands

Marks and Spencer have long been a favourite of mine for everyday essentials like underwear and basic clothing; not to mention delicious sandwiches! I find it exciting that such a mainstream brand which is aimed at the middle-aged ‘average’ person in Britain headed up its ambitious ‘Plan A’ five years ago.

Plan A consists of 180 commitments to achieve by 2015 giving Marks and Spencer the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer.

They are focusing on five main areas:

Climate change

Marks and Spencer have continued to reduce their carbon footprint even as the business has grown. By monitoring energy use throughout stores, offices and using fuel efficient trucks they have reduced their carbon footprint by 22%. They’ve set up eco factories around the world for suppliers, worked with farmers and the tractors they use as well as shared advice with customers on reducing food waste and washing at 30 degrees.

Reducing waste

Marks and Spencer have reduced the weight of food packaging such as glass by over 1000 tonnes per year. They recycle hangers and have reduced clothing packaging. They give advice to householders about reducing food waste and have started charging for disposable plastic carrier bags. They work with Oxfam to resell, reuse and recycle unwanted clothing.

Sustainable raw materials

Marks and Spencer work closely with producers regarding issues such as animal welfare, sustainable fishing, and farming. They sell free range and organic poultry, cruelty free beauty products and were top of the 2011 Greenpeace league tables for their sustainably caught tuna; which they even use in their ready meals. Even their till receipts are FSC certified!

Trading ethically

I’ve noticed fairtrade cotton on some of Marks and Spencer clothing ranges such as vests and t-shirts. Fairtrade helps small-scale cotton farmers in developing countries to invest in their communities, by guaranteeing them a fair and stable. As well as selling organic and fairtrade coffee on the shelves, you can enjoy fairtrade, organic AND Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee in their cafés.


Marks and Spencer are making it easier for customers to eat well by reducing salt and saturated fat in their products along with easy-to-understand labelling. Since 2008, Marks and Spencer has been the first major high street retailer to remove all artificial colours and flavourings (including those associated with hyperactivity in children and MSG) from its own label food and drink which is a huge benefit to parents.

Ethical consumer

Ethical Consumer magazine score Monsoon and Marks and Spencer best for ethics amongst the high street retailers; they are particularly impressed with M&S’s commitment to switching all their fridges to those using gases with the lowest climate impact. In November 2009, Consumer Focus rated the brand “A” for the environment in a survey which assessed the top nine grocers on areas including climate change, waste and recycling, and sustainable fishing and farming.

Saving money

With many of us having to take our financial circumstances into account it’s good to be able to combine ethics with our bank balance. Marks and Spencer Voucher Codes allow you to save some money while supporting a brand who are taking huge steps towards leading the way on the high street.

What about you? Which high street retailers do you support and what are your tips for saving money on ethical brands?


  1. Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking on June 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Wow I haven’t heard of them but look forward to checking them out. Even though we live in the small southern state of Tennessee it is more of a “green” state than most people would believe so we have quite a few options here. I am so all for saving money!

  2. Kelley @ best selling green product on June 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    To be totally honest, I have never actually heard of Marks and Spencer. They must not be based in the US, right? Are they are UK based company? Anyway — enjoyed the article. First time on the blog! Looking forward to more of your information.

  3. chris levey on June 26, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I find M and S still give carriers for clothing so I have made some cotton shopping bags from my old caravan awning curtains so that when I buy clothing, cards, and household goods I can refuse the carrier bag and still keep my purchase clean.