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The Marks & Start programme gives the opportunity of work experience to a range of people including the young unemployed, people with disabilities, the homeless, parents returning to work, students who are the first in their families to aim for higher education and school students.
The company Marks & Spencer (M&S) is one of the UK's leading retailers of clothing, food, home products and financial services. Ten million people shop each week in over 375 M&S stores in the UK. In addition M&S has 155 stores managed under franchise in 28 territories, mostly in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, as well as stores in the Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong and a US supermarket group, Kings Super Markets. The company is structured in business units covering food and general merchandise. The general merchandise unit is further divided into women’s clothing, menswear, lingerie, beauty and home. These units all contribute to the company’s vision ‘to be the standard against which others are measured’. Central to the running of these units are the values of M&S. These include quality, value, service, innovation and trust. Each business unit develops its own CSR strategy based around the brand value of trust. The issues tackled in the strategies are identified from a combination of customer research, understanding within the business and by talking with other key stakeholders, NGOs, government etc. For each issue an action plan is developed which balances customer and stakeholder expectations and other commercial pressures. For example, for food, 16 issues have been identified ranging from pesticides to labour standards.
The issues are grouped into three general areas: people – its own employees, and those employed in its supply chain; products – with an emphasis on producing high quality, value for money goods that have positive environmental and social benefits; and community – this category recognises the company’s role in helping to create and maintain places within which to work and live. For each of the three areas M&S has a programme of work. The drivers The founders of M&S believed that building good relationships with employees, suppliers and wider society was the best guarantee of long-term success. This remains the backbone of its approach to CSR. Since those early days M&S has built up a reputation as a trustworthy company. Trust is one of its core values and its approach to CSR focuses on maintaining and enhancing trust. In the past, before CSR was a defined concept, much of M&S’s work on environmental and social issues was through philanthropic gifts to charity work. However more recently there has been a move away from this traditional philanthropic giving as the company wanted to be more involved in the impact of its funding, with more of a focus on customers, staff and those producing its goods. This was a key driver for the launch of several CSR initiatives on health, employability and the environment in the last 5 years.
Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series, September 2005
If job vacancies exist within M&S the participant is encouraged and helped to apply.“Our approach was further influenced by events that affected food and people’s trust in food retailers. M&S consulted with all its employees and through market research it also asked its customers about the focus of its community programme. receives a two to four week placement in either a M&S store or office. The response was unequivocal – employment was a key issue on which to focus. The charities were identified through their existing reputations with the key groups. Post placement support – the support varies depending on the participant’s needs. parents returning to work. Wales and Northern Ireland to gain work experience with M&S. Work experience – here M&S personnel work with the charities to identify the right placement and the buddy for the participant. as research has revealed that confidence and skills can immediately drop after work experience. M&S employees find the on-the-ground expertise of the charity staff motivational when they meet them through their visits to the stores or at external events which M&S staff support. said Katie Stafford M&S’s Sustainable Development Manager. disabled people. Ready for Work was the precursor to Marks & Start and provided some valuable learning. 6 and 12month intervals after the work experience. The programme also revealed that participants had different levels of need and that a partner organisation was needed to identify the right work placement for the participant. a uniform (where necessary) and a reference (when requested). Pre-employment training – M&S supports charities who work with the participants in developing skills in writing job applications and interview skills. The Marks & Start community programme was launched in February 2004. the allocation of a ‘buddy’ (a M&S employee) as a mentor. The partners are the Prince’s Trust (young unemployed). The other groups are the young unemployed. The aim of the programme is to give these individuals a taste of life in a working environment and the confidence and ability to gain employment. Its focus is broader than Ready for Work as it offers work experience to more than just the homeless. This led to M&S’s firm belief that CSR can deliver a point of difference on the issue of trust between other retailers and themselves. Participants in Marks & Start are identified by the charity partners who specialise in social work with the key groups. regardless of target group. There are three stages to the work experience. DisabledGo (people with disabilities). and One Parent Families and Parentline Plus through their wholly-owned joint venture Family Business (parents returning to work). The programme specifically sets out to help those who face barriers to getting a job. the provision of travel expenses. September 2005 . Taking action In 2001. over 30% of adult people who participated found work in a variety of sectors Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series. lunch. buddy and HR staff. De-briefings are held half way through and at the end of the placement with the participant. In 2004. As a result Ready for Work – a partnership programme with Business in the Community (an organisation that works with companies to improve their impact on society) – was established. and school students (14-16 years old). such as BSE and other health scares. This stage is very important. Business Action on Homelessness (the homeless). This programme ran for three years and helped 600 homeless people in 13 cities in England. Marks & Start. This case study focuses on the company’s flagship community programme. These events caused customers to raise their expectations of us to act responsibly”. The key findings were that running employment training schemes was possible and that it could be done to scale. The support occurs at 3. students who are the first in their family to go to university. although they are included. The support is offered by the charities and funded by M&S. but to be successful it needed support throughout the company. Each participant.
please contact Dr Paul Toyne at Article 13 on 020 8840 4450 or email ptoyne@article13. Over 100 stores were involved in the launch of Marks & Start and more than 1. and to raise awareness of some of the barriers faced by parents returning to work. Contact us Any comments on this profile? Would you like your organisation to be profiled? For further information. For more information on Marks & Spencer.g.com. Through the full-time employment of participants it has diversified its workforce. What next? Marks & Start will continue to emphasise and improve on the quality aspects of the programme rather than seek to increase the numbers of participants. Despite this success and that of Ready for Work there have been a number of challenges for M&S. e. Why is it CSR? M&S has the philosophy of ‘helping others to help themselves’. accountancy.marksandspencer.com/csr. so widening the skill base of its workforce. Lastly. Leaflets and magazine articles have proved to be excellent vehicles to promote the programme and raise the profile of M&S community involvement with customers. Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series. First was the need to change staff perceptions of the stigma that often accompanies disadvantaged people. Marks & Start aims to support this. This leads to benefits in terms of loyalty to the company and retention of staff. Another 2. It wants to maintain the initial success of the programme and will work with other companies to share lessons learnt and best practice. This was overcome with in-house communications and store visits by the M&S community programme team. September 2005 . In a recent survey of 500 staff.including within M&S. particularly the homeless.000 employees have been a buddy. please contact head office on 020 7935 4422 or visit www. The programme is reliant on M&S for funding. all of which go beyond the legal obligations of the company. Its manufacturing suppliers in Sri Lanka decided to run Marks & Start for disabled people and M&S provided them with guidance. This in turn promotes the trust and responsibility values of the company and builds reputation with customers. who raised awareness and enthusiasm for the project by providing presentations and leaving materials with the staff. those with disabilities. website information and magazine articles.500 people will participate in 2005 and almost every store in the UK is now involved in some way. on staff volunteers for buddy roles and on stores to offer facilities for gaining work experience. This is already happening. The business benefits M&S has benefited from Marks and Start in a number of ways. The programme has improved staff morale. Another challenge was learning to work with charity partners and learning from Ready for Work how best to run a diverse programme. The new staff are representative of M&S’s customer base and have a good understanding of how to treat customers. M&S found that 76% said the programme had contributed to making M&S a great place to work and they felt that they had increased their skills. the police force and others. M&S wants to improve communication of the programme to its customers and staff through more case studies.
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