A study of M&S Plan A CSR initiative with the integration of HR

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has since the last decade been a hot topic and has got increased importance since it was first introduced. (Werner and Chandler, 2005), argued that "consistent definitions, labels, and vocabulary have yet to be solidly established in the field of CSR". But yet many businesses have or planned "to increase future commitments in social issues" (Kotler and Lee, 2005, pp4-5). HR has played an important role in delivering CSR strategies around businesses and retailer in the UK and with the increase popularity of Web 2.0; many businesses have adapted the new way of doing business rather than doing it the old way. Not many have been said about CSR and Web 2.0 and how they can work together with the help of HR. Thus, this report will look at how M&S Plan A initiative can work with the integration of Web 2.0 with CSR and HR.

Keywords: CSR, HR, M&S Plan A, Web 2.0, CSR 2.0, ethics

3.0 Background

Many have been said on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and it has become one of the hottest topics in the business world. The beauty of CSR lies with the fact that it not only covers profit which many businesses think about but it also has human and societal/planet aspect which many tend to sideline. In 2000, an executive survey found that "69% of companies planned to increase future commitments on social issues" (Kotler and Lee, 2005, pp 4-5). CSR is the bridge between a company and its stakeholders and it is the responsibility of the latter to bridge the gap and perception of its stakeholders if any. Therefore as argued by (Smith 2003, p 52) "CSR is not only considered as the right thing to do to contribute to the societal good, but also the smart thing to do"

(Mbare, 2006), suggested that "the concept of CSR is not new, as some would want us to believe, and the debate about business as a moral institution goes back to the days of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Marx". Indeed one can argue that there has been a paradigm shift in business practices as we are in a global market and where many businesses are outsourcing so the matter of best practices and relations with those concerned have become important. The likes of BP and Primark is a good lesson on what can go wrong if you do not do what you preach.

In the UK the retail business has taken CSR to the next level and is very much present in their monthly or quarterly agenda. In 2006, Global Powers of retailing report Deloitte suggested that "heightened concern about the growing risks facing retailers is changing the management agenda from one of managing for profitable growth to one of managing and mitigating risk". Same can be rephrased as what the former CEO Cescau P. of Unilever PLC once said "the rise of the conscience consumer is a movement that is gathering momentum and will change the face of business and brands" But what is a business without its main asset? That is its People. HR or people aspect of a company is the heartbeat of any business because without people a company is nothing, hence for "CSR to be successful, it needs the support and collective efforts from top management to staff to make it happen" (Maon, Lindgreen and Swaen, 2008; Szekely and Knirsch, 2005)

Similarly, the rise of Social Networking and Media or simply the Web 2.0, the paradigm has shifted again to reach target audiences. Most of UK's retailers are on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube and it has proven to be one of the fastest growing trend as far as sharing a company' activities with its fan or followers. (Visser W, 2010) argues that the way of approaching CSR has changed and that it is no more about responsibility but sustainability.

Nevertheless, this is how M&S has built their foundation of its strategy on CSR as said by Sir Stuart Rose their aim is to be UK's most sustainable retailer by 2015, which where the M&S Plan A initiative came to life and so far the company has 100 commitments added to it with another 80 added this year to stretch it till 2015. There is no doubt about the fact that many other departments in M&S has a pivotal role to play as far as CSR is concerned but HR and Web 2.0 do play a more important role than many would like to acknowledge. This report will look at this particular gap as to how both HR and Web 2.0 help CSR walk the talk. The next chapter is about what have been said and researched on.

4.0 Literature Review

Previous research and articles have been done as far as CSR is concerned and a lot has been said as well on Web 2.0. The literature review aims to depict some or the most relevant issues regarding this research.

(Visser W. 2010) cites that CSR is not about responsibility but sustainability. So how sustainable is the Plan A would be debated as we go along. (Scott J T. 2011) argues that sustainability is always confused with "going green" but that is just being short sighted as it consist more than being environmentally friendly aspects such as Finance, legal and social is very much present. He also adds that "sustainability is about long-term business; we have to develop an awareness of what that includes before analysing that idea"

"Doing well and doing good were seen as separate", (claimed Carla Fiorina, Hewlett Packard, at the business for social Responsibility Annual Conference, November 12, 2003). But in today's society such things do not exist as CSR is an integral part of Corporate Governance which adds value to a Brand and Stakeholders and is so ever present in the Executive agenda.

(Kotler et al. 2005) Argue that CSR cover mainly three aspects of any business they are as follows: the Legal, ethical and Social Responsible Behaviour. It is an amalgamation of what is good, socially and ethically good in the society.

CSR/Cause-related marketing for some is not philanthropy. As cited by Baker, "It is a commercial activity by which businesses and charities or good cause form a partnership with each other to market an image, product or service for mutual benefit." (Source: Business in the Community cited in Baker 2003, pg 670). Albeit all these, M&S main aim is to be UK's most sustainable retailer in the UK and how far they have reached and done would be stressed out as we go along.

CSR as the three bottom lines:

Businesses tend to benchmark the three bottom lines with their financial gain and loss. But beyond that point is the People and Social aspect which are inter-related to the profit aspect. M&S benchmark here is the people and social aspect which in return turn up the profit. A more detailed study of this in relation to M&S would be brought out during the research.

All three P's are inter-related to make informed business decision which has a direct impact on the Shareholders value

Figure 1.0 Source: Elkington J Cannibals with Forks: the Triple bottom Line of 21st Century Businesses 1998)

CSR and people

(Spiller, 2000, p 154), suggested that CSR "starts at home-within the organisation-as employees are the connectors to the outside stakeholders, which includes fair remuneration, effective communication, learning and development opportunities, fulfilling work, a healthy and safe working environment, equal employment opportunities, job security, competent leadership, community spirit and social mission integration". This in fact mirrors to what M&S portrays as their CSR approach.

The argument is that CSR consists of 3Ps, one of which is People. According to (Vanhaverbeke, JCI), people (Staff, Suppliers and Shareholders) should act as active citizenship which they describe as "the voluntary capacity of citizens and communities to work together to exercise economic, social or political power in pursuit of shared goals" Source www.jci.be for a company to be more sustainable and achieve whatever CSR objectives they have.

Active citizens' work together to balance the act which would bring out efficiency throughout CSR

Market Efficiency

Active Citizenship

Government Security Community Cohesion

Source: Figure 2.0 Active citizenships: www.jci.be a membership based non-profit organisation

The argument here how all the three P's can be used to work towards what we all call being sustainable because like it or not People does play a vital role in any strategy a business want its company to follow. The active citizenships, is an example as to how the one element of the 3P can actually work towards merging the other together to form a more balance and valuable tool for the company.

CSR as a tool for Leaders

Making bold claims about being green and to actually get the right mind set out of business leaders and their employees are quite different thing. As experimented by JCI they developed the 3P+ Navigator.









Figure 3.0: The 3P+ Navigator Source: www.jci.be with courtesy of Ubeon business experts.

The argument here is that the 3P+ is to give an insight and trigger action in the use of CSR from anyone coming across the latter as well as it can be used as a valuable assessment tool so that businesses have an idea where they all stand. Nevertheless, it is vital to also know what resources and capabilities the company have to actually us these tools. For a company like M&S who have laid there foundation on being a sustainable retailer and is doing all to achieve this main objective then that tool is helpful.

CSR and HR

People is one if not the most important aspect as to delivering strategies are concerned.CSR is not rhetoric and philanthropic anymore and like it or not People is the driving force as far as deliverance is concerned. CSR-HR=PR, as stated by Mees A and Bonham J Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, they said that, "if employees are not engaged, corporate social responsibility becomes an exercise in public relations. The credibility of an organisation will become damaged when it becomes evident the company is not "walking the talk". According to SHRM (Society for HR Management), a survey they did in 2006, reveals that CSR practices are seen as important to employee morale (50%), loyalty (41%), retention (29%)-(SHRM 2007 pg27)

Employee Engagement Pyramid

Figure 4.0 Source: adapted from Melcrum, 2006, pg 9

It takes initiatives and commitment across the board to walk the talk at this level. And to make staff at all level be part of it, there need to be set frameworks like this one whereby everyone is actively engaged in educating, training and creating awareness through events. For example, M&S has an Energy champion in each store as well as Plan A champions and BIG group to walk the talk on Plan A and any other issues.

Adding together or (Deming, 1986) cycle and (Moan, Lindgreen and Swaen's, 2008) general CSR model came the HR-CSR framework. It consists of "planning and awareness, implementation and process development, monitoring and feedback and revision an institutionalisation". (Source Journal of international Business ethics Vol. 3 p 3, 2010) It depicts here that the process of HR and CSR need to be closely monitored and nurtured to get the aimed result and each step of it need to be worked together that is HR-CSR as one entity. So far M&S has made it clear on the fact that the very core of its business is based on CSR so how about HR in that? That is what the research is all about.

CSR and ethics

According to Carroll (1989), when it come people deciding of what is ethical, the meaning varies for the reason below.

Prevailing norms of acceptability

Behaviour or act that has been committed

Value judgements and perceptions of the observer

Figure 5.0 Source: Carroll 1989 adapted by Boddy D Management an Introduction 4th edition Prentice Hall 2008 Chapter 5 pg 152

In relation to businesses operating in the UK, same would apply as each and every company has their own agenda of CSR and what is ethical.

He further argued (1999), that decision making should consider four aspects for CSR performance which are as follows

Criteria of corporate social performance

Economic Responsibility

(Make a profit)

Legal Responsibility

(Obey the law)

Ethical Responsibility

(Do what is right, avoid harm)

Discretionary Responsibility

(Contribute to community, be philanthropic

Figure 6.0 Source: Carroll 1999 adapted by Boddy D Management an introduction 4th edition Prentice Hall 2008 Chapter 5 pg 156

The argument here is CSR is not just about doing good but as well as to abide by laws and the society that we live in, in addition to add shareholders values and being a philanthropy. But this is debatable as to how businesses see CSR.

Friedman et al argued that CSR should be for the public good rather that personal gain (1962). He stated that "In a free economy there is one and only one social responsibility of business- to use resources to engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud (1962, p133) (adapted by Boddy D 2008)

Same was backed by Margolis and Walsh (2003), Henderson (2001) and Stavins (1994) where they all agreed that is should be for the better of the society rather than profit.

CSR 2.0:

There has been a drastic shift in the way today businesses are operating and with the introduction and growth of social networking old models are being incorporated in new version of the web and social network. That paradigm shift is occurring in the way businesses are taking CSR as the next big thing, E-procurement, e-CRM has been here long enough and now it is CSR or should we say CSR 2.0. Same argued by Visser W 2010 that CSR has failed and there need to have a new DNA as far as the latter is concerned. He also suggests that "the allusion to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is no coincidence. The transformation of the internet through the emergence of social media networks, UGC and open source approaches is a fitting metaphor for the changes business is experiencing as it begins to redefine its role in society" (Source: Journal of Business, Systems, Governance and Ethics Vol. 5 No.3 pg 14)






Image driven






Sustainability &









Figure 7.0 CSR 1.0 V CSR 2.0 Source: Journal of Business Systems, Governance and Ethics Vol. 5 No 3 Pg 18

CSR and Web 2.0

Web 2.0 or more precisely Social Media and Social Network. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, blogs and Flickr many businesses have embraced these medium to reach out their target audience. Retailers in the UK and even M&S has a Facebook page or Twitter account which indeed show the importance they take in being in the know of how to reach their customers. Even You Tube has become popular among retailers and M&S has even got IDTV. But why this change and how that will help CSR? This is the second part of this research.

Although it is common practice that retailers publish their annual reports on their websites, it has become increasingly likely that they do the same for their CSR reports online and have specific pages on social site for the latter.

(Musser and O'Reilly, 2006), stated that "web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform"

Adding up all together (a critical evaluation)

So many have been said on CSR and obviously the changing dynamics in the way businesses are being conducted, more would be voiced out. Nevertheless as we are embracing ourselves towards the next generation in the World Wide Web and social media, so has the aspect of CSR. Kotler et al argues that it is all about being legally, socially and socially responsible but as stated before, CSR is far beyond the green issues it is going towards innovation and adapting a more rational approach with the merger of the 3Ps.

HR does play a pivotal role in making CSR more successful but the level of HRM in CSR is debatable as to how it can be made more profitable. What are the motivations staff gets to actually perform and be more sustainable. If any of the steps stated in the Employee Engagement Pyramid is not respected then all the process would be in vain and fail.

The author hails the initiative taken by Visser W (2010) as very bold and sees the future bright as it encloses all that this research is about. Can CSR/HR and web 2.0 work and is it sustainable? At this stage, more literature reviews are being conducted to add up to what has been said and that would help this research move forward.

5.0 Industry Background

The pledge for M&S Plan A is "Because there is no Plan B". It all started in 2007 after the former CEO Sir Stuart Rose watched an Al Gore movie and he stated that "we launched Plan A by committing to change 10 things over five years because we've only got one world and time is running out" (Source: www.marksandspencer.com/plana) There was no turning back and in 2010 they added 80 more commitments to be achieved by 2015. So far out of the 100 they have achieved 70.

The five pillars of Plan A

Climate Change


Raw Materials

Fair Partner


Source: www.marksandspencer.com/plana

Plan A aim to deliver




Change across the value chain

Kotler et al. 2005 cited that one should be ethically, socially and legally responsible in what they do. M& since its Plan A initiative have won a lot of plaudits and the ways they merged this initiative with its people (staff) is one of its kind and has given them the competitive edge over rivals such as Tesco and Waitrose.

Figure 8.0 Adding up all together www.marksandspencer.com/plana and the 3P

6.0 Research aim

For the purpose of this research, the following questions would be addressed and worked on

Research Questions

What are the effects of HR on CSR and how did it work for M&S?

What effects can Web 2.0 have on CSR Strategy?


The integration of Web 2.0 to CSR will add up expenditure to the Financial budget

The importance of CSR does have an effect on the way people perform and represent the Company

Research problems and objectives

Many believe that CSR is a burden on a companies' budget and it never adds up. But for M&S their Plan A initiative has won plaudits and is a very important aspect of the retailer's strategy and future of being UK's most sustainable retailer. Thus the objectives of this research is to get the answer on whether

CSR is more an asset than expenditure

Does People and CSR help the image of the Company

How Web 2.0 help a CSR campaign and walk the talk

7.0 Research Methodology

Research methodology, is the most important aspect of any solution that needs finding. The right way of doing things and knowing what and where to start the research is vital. There is two parts in a research and both has there distinguished features. They are the Primary and Secondary research or data that we need to answer our main questions and the data can be both qualitative and quantitative. (Saunders et al. 2007) cited that having a multiple methods in research can help to answer the research questions and give lights in different perspectives.

Research Choices

Mono Method Multiple Methods

Multi Methods Mixed methods

Multi-Methods Multi-Methods Mixed-methods Mixed Model

Quantitative studies Qualitative studies Researches

Figure 9.0 Source: Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003) adapted by Saunders et al (2007)

7.1 Data Collection

As discussed previously data collection comprises of both secondary and primary data. Most of Marketing books and authors the like of Ghauri, Davidson, Malhotra and Birks(1994-2005) all agrees that both Primary Research and Secondary data are important aspects of research and a mixture of both is most likely to be used when conducting a research.

7.2 Primary data

As argued by Malhotra K N. And Birks D F. (2007), primary data are data that is collated by the researcher for the problem at hand. It consists of interviews, surveys and observations.



Experiment Observation Communication

Human/Mechanical Surveys/Interview

Natural Setting Contrived setting Mail/Phone/Personal

Figure 10.0 Source Ghauri P and Gronhaug K 2005 Research Methods in Business Studies 3rd Edition Prentice Hall

7.3 Secondary data

Secondary also known as desk research is more precisely looking at data collated in the past by other authors and people in specific fields. It has both internal and external source and information would be collated from journals, archives, libraries, annual reports and internet, professional bodies as well as governmental archives and NGO's. It is both internal and external sources of data which are then combined for the appropriate research



Internal Sources External Sources

Brochure/Catalogues Books and Articles

Warranties Statistics

Reports Monitors

Invoices Scanner Research

Figure 11.0 Source: Ghauri P and Gronhaug K (2005), Research Methods in Business 3rd edition Prentice Hall

7.4 Research Methodology choice

For the purpose of this research, Secondary data would be used to justify the first question as to how Plan A has impacted the business as a whole as well as how CSR has emerged in the last decade. With the help of past reports from M&S and past articles and archives on CSR as well as polls made from YouGov and other research companies such as Dunnhumby to know what impact CSR has made. There is mention of M&S v Tesco, the reason being that both retailers target different market group and both have CSR initiatives but yet one is on the limelight but one is not that much so, looking for Tesco's CSR report would also give an idea as to what customers in the retail sector think of buying sustainable products.

7.5 Primary data

Primary is the field search where the most important job is done and as discussed earlier it consists of interviews and surveys. As this topic is mostly based on M&S Plan A and the merge of web-analytics to track its success, the main aspect of this proposal would lie on the Primary research and the focus would be on qualitative data rather than quantitative data. Qualitative focus, the main area of research would define question two of the proposal hence using the inductive approach. With surveys and in-depth interview from M&S Managers and Personnel Managers, staff as well as customers, the main focus would be to get the most information as to how CSR and Plan A has changed their attitudes.

7.6 Secondary + Primary = improved research

Secondary Research

Primary Research

YouGov surveys on fair-trading

Archives from the British Library

Journals of management

Books and published articles

Books and published articles

CIPD organisation

BRASS organisation


Questionnaires/Surveys (deductive approach)

M&S staff from 50 different store different format

Survey with customers across 15 stores age group 20-40

Survey with Tesco customers regarding fair-trading buying age group 25-45

Surveys sent out to marketing Department/ M&S Head office


Interview with Personnel Managers (15 stores)

Interview with Store Managers (15 stores)

1-2-1 with Plan A Marketing team

7.7 Justifications for the proposed research methodologies

The argument here is how inter-related is CSR and HR and how the Web 2.0 has changed the paradigm of businesses. M&S Plan A is one of the most talked about CSR initiative and even though they are not immune to Web 2.0 there is still a gap that need filling as to how it can help them and the most relevant way is to do the Primary Research proposes above.

8.0 Timescale

Please refer to Appendix One

9.0 Resources

Access to some past research done on fair-trading and CSR from YouGov would be an additional cost on top of the cost of doing the questionnaires and printing them. Access to M&s has been negotiated and is subject to confirmation and part of data already been accessed via the website and staff intranet. Cost of travel to different store and appointments would add up. Some data have been already accessed with permission from the relevant companies for e.g. JCI and CSR international and more need be done which would be at additional costs. Still awaiting reply form Market research consultancy Clients Opinions for further data.