36 hour data dive with charity partners
In February 2013 I attended a conference and saw a presentation by Jake who had set up a charity organisation called Datakind in New York. His premise was that charities have some of the richest information in the world on issues and events that really matter to people. But they can’t afford complex technology and dedicated analysts to make sense of it all.
Companies have lots of technology and capable analysts who could do incredible things with the charity data if allowed. But, though many companies offer corporate sustainability days for staff to use, they are usually spent digging gardens or painting fences.
What if we could apply our analyst brains rather than brawn to charity problems? What if we could multiply the value of every donation by advising how best to spend it?
So we decided to make it happen. On 9 October 2014, 70 M&S analysts volunteered to help four partner charities: Prince’s Trust, MacMillan Cancer, Winston’s Wish and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Fuelled by fresh coffee and Percy Pigs, the combined analyst / charity teams started tearing through ideas and the pace of work became frantic. When the day finished at 9pm, we had to throw people out as they wanted to continue working. And the next morning the pace only got faster!
After 36 hours our achievements included building a donor database for one charity and identifying a £900,000 funding opportunity for another. Every single one of us was buzzing – and keen to do it all over again next year.
Pete – Analysis Manager
The biodiversity business: Making green count
In business today, green principles and issues are often at work, but only in the background, invisible to the naked eye. Ironically, placing a business value on the green that is easy to see can be quite difficult.
This green is the living kind. It is the stuff of biodiversity: swales, green walls, gabions, native species, wildlife-friendly planting, hedgerows, wildflower meadows, mature trees, saplings, swift and bat boxes, insect houses, wetland habitat and rain gardens.
It is not just beautiful, but plentiful. Living green is being woven daily throughout the fabric of our property portfolio at M&S: at our head offices, throughout store-retrofit programmes and on landmark new-build schemes.
Statistics tell the tale at our recent Cheshire Oaks development in Ellesmere Port: 12,000sq m of landscaping and wetland, 350sq m of living wall, 228 trees planted, 88 plant species and 17 types of bird sighted – plus the first-ever award of the Wildlife Trust Biodiversity Benchmark to a UK retailer.
Landscape and ecology professionals are constructing an argument in support of biodiversity, but are doing so without the key metrics to capture the true benefits. Much as the moment might seem right for ecosystem services to go mainstream, there will be no tipping point without active collaboration on the number crunching.
We want to be able to prove that a healthy and nature-connected working and shopping environment can pay huge dividends in terms of wellbeing, productivity and business effectiveness. We want to be able to demonstrate that greening improves building performance through insulation, shading and reduced storm water runoff. We want to show the real return that can be made on a relatively small investment in design.
Without the killer data though, our business case is incomplete.
Roseline – Plan A Project ManagerInside M&S
Taking our Food Integrity across the World
Karen explains how we're taking our food integrity across the world
"We're famous for the quality and integrity of our food – it's at the heart of what we stand for in the UK, and we know that customers put their trust in M&S. They've got high expectations of us, and we have a responsibility to meet and exceed them.
"That can be less straightforward as we go further abroad. We have cafes all over the world – from Prague, to Malta, Kuwait, to Hong Kong – and they have to source fresh products locally.
"Sandwiches, salads, tomatoes, lettuce, and other fresh fruit and veg are all locally sourced. There's a lot of variation in food safety standards in other countries so the challenge is always we "how do we take the M&S brand values to other countries so that we deliver on our promise?"
"My job is to take that integrity to a global audience. I spend lots of time in our cafes around the world, ensuring the food quality standards are right, that the operating standards are too. More than that though, I spend a lot of time visiting suppliers, ensuring the integrity of the complete supply chain, making sure it's up to our standards.
"Nurturing relationships and keeping them going is key. Customers put their trust in us, so we only work with suppliers that we trust too. Over time, the investments we make in those relationships pay for themselves."
Our Commitment to Integrity
Janiece, Recruitment Coordinator from Braehead tells us how our commitment to integrity means we can change people's lives
"I've been buddying through the 'Marks & Start' and' Make Your Mark' programmes for the past three years, helping young people do their placements, getting them into stores and hopefully getting them jobs.
"I enjoy the change in people's lives. A lot of these kids have had the wrong start in life and feel there is no future. Last year we had 18 young kids from 16-24 years old join the programme.
"I remember interviewing one particular boy for a placement. He had been in and out of trouble from age 16 onwards and had no outlook on life - he just thought that was it, he was going to be in trouble for the rest of his life. He started the interview by telling me that he didn't know why he was bothering, he didn't think he'd get through and nobody would give him a chance. I was able to stop him and let him know that with the right attitude we would give him a chance. I said let's see how you come across. From that day onwards we could see something in him, we could see how amazing he was.
"He got onto the placement and I think he was quite overwhelmed, and when I offered him a job he was almost in tears. Then when he came to work for us later in the year, at Christmas, I saw him as a different person. He was skipping around and saying good morning. I don't think he'd had a great deal of enthusiasm in his life before.
"I've also been lucky enough to mentor three profoundly deaf women who are now permanent members of the ladies wear team. They had only ever mixed within the deaf community and had been out of work for a long time and so they thought they wouldn't be suitable to work at M&S. Actually when they came onto the placement and we mentored them, we were able to help them see that they could work here.
"I'm really proud. We give a lot back to the community. We give people another outlook on life. I think customers realise that we do things like this - when they meet different people like hearing impaired ladies on the shop floor, they realise that Marks & Spencer are very diverse and we give everyone a chance."
Innovative Skincare Breakthrough
Shona tells us about the innovative breakthrough that enabled us to create a totally new skin care product
"This is the first time we've developed a specific ingredient for a product and I was lucky to be a part of that. There are lots of antioxidants in the market, but this is the first time that a retailer has taken excess ingredients from one product and used it for another.
"At one time all these excess ingredients were just thrown out. Now we live a world where we need to reuse and recycle and manufacturers have been looking at ways in which they can take what was once waste and turn it into new ingredients. So we took the leftover grape skins from one of our wines, and after a complex extract process, used it as an antioxidant in a skin care product - it sounds so simple!
"It's innovative but it shows real integrity too, to make sure nothing's wasted. Because we've got the whole end-to-end product life cycle, we own the whole process. No other retailer can do that – it gives us a unique position.
"Competitor food retailers just don't sell the quality skin ranges that we do, we have the resource and skills they don't. People trust our brand, and if people tell a friend who tells another friend then it really affects sales. Word of mouth is really important – if we didn't have that trust, we couldn't do what we do."Inside M&S
Behind our great Coffee
Master Barista Loise tells us about the inspiration that sits behind her great coffee
"I came from Kenya, and was brought up on a farm in the Central Province. My parents owned the farm and the cash crop we grew was coffee. We grew coffee amongst other things, but coffee was the main thing. And, as children we used to pick the coffee. We had other workers help us, but as children we were expected to pick the coffee as well. We'd still get paid some pocket money. I was about seven or eight years old when I started filling sacks.
"Coffee is green beans and then it goes to an orange colour and then a red colour. You have to know the right beans to pick and my father would show us. You can eat the coffee beans. They are sweet, rather like grapes. But for coffee, you dry the beans, wash them and pulp them. You really do dry the beans for days and days.
"Now I'm doing coffee. I love it. I don't like tea. It's funny because people in Kenya can't afford coffee, so we used to buy instant. Now I am here, I can afford to drink real coffee every day.
"Now I am training people, so now I tell them about where I come from. I want to bring in some beans from home. I want to educate people about where they are from. So, the beans are roasted in Scotland, but I want to tell them about why our beans are so special. I want to them about why the beans are organic, that they must be grown in organic soil. And when you tell these stories they are really proud, and they spread that story.
"When you do this, you get feedback from managers. That's great. It gives you the confidence to do it and then I feel I can do more and more and more. It makes you feel you can do it, and it encourages others to do it as well.
"Every day when I see the customer's face is the best part of my day. I feel proud that customers used to wait a bit longer to get their coffee just from me. But it is simple, it all comes through training. The latte milk should only be used twice. Don't use excess milk. Just use what you need. This makes better coffee. And now we have shared the secrets to making coffee with the team, the customers don't mind who makes their coffee."Inside M&S
In search of Star Bakers
When it comes to great British (and continental) baking, our Bakeries at M&S are full of winners.
Over the last three years we have been rolling out brand new in-store bakeries to many of our stores across the UK and some of our international markets. This is part of our plan to add more theatre to our Food Halls and to strengthen M&S' position as a specialist food retailer.
Our exciting bakery range mixes seasonal flavours that tantalise our customers’ tastebuds. Take our crusty artisan speciality loaves. They’re full of exciting taste combinations, from Cornish Cruncher Cheese with Rosemary and Cranberry & Pecan, to Fig & Hazelnut and many more. Not to mention our deliciously sticky pastries and traditional breads.
Our bakery assistants put their passion for quality and their desire to make our customers happy into every bake. It’s their job to make everything in our bakeries look delicious. Product knowledge is also key as they need to know the products inside out – Sourdough from Ciabatta and Pain Au Raisin from Panettone.
I see them as one of the most important ingredients in our winning mix. Throughout the day, every day, they’re always ready to share their knowledge and passion to help customers find just the product they’re looking for.
That’s why we’re looking for people who not only love baking and have some experience of working with bakery products, but who also have the inspiration and flair to promote our delicious baked goods. In return, we offer all the support, training and development you need to be at your best all day long.
So, if you’ve got what it takes to wear your apron with pride, produce a great bake time and time again, and get our customers raving about your products every single day, check out our hospitality video and register to become one of our bakers.Inside M&S