Even in recession, you need to push Plan A harder. Sir Stuart Rose

‘In 2004, Stuart Rose saved the business from a hostile takeover bid,’ recalls Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer. ‘Stuart felt passionately about the brand and the core of that brand which was trust. In order to restore some of that trust we worked hard behind the scenes on the CSR side, and in 2006 we launched ‘Look behind the label’. The initiative was intended to increase and showcase business transparency and regain public trust in the brand. It was a phenomenal success, one of the most effective business-building campaigns in the history of the iconic British retailer. Mike Barry continues:

But in the autumn of 2006, Stuart Rose came into the office and said, ‘Good about CSR – need to do more!’ The reason for that was twofold: (1) consumers were getting a little cynical and suspicious about greenwash, they didn’t want a few nice stories, they wanted to know that everything we were doing was good; (2) the CSR space had become highly competitive in the retail sector (Co-op and Waitrose, but also Tesco), there was an opportunity to differentiate ourselves, so the CEO gave us a three months’ challenge to develop a concept for moving beyond ‘Look behind the label’.