American retailers take note: Marks & Spencer may have joined the ranks of Patagonia and Uniqlo with its own clothing take-back program, but it isn’t doing it alone. The British department store has teamed up with Oxfam U.K. to help underprivileged communities worldwide. Simply bring any store-branded garment, shoe, or bag into an Oxfam shop for “recycling” and you’ll receive £5 off when you spend £35 or more on clothing, home, or beauty products at M&S. To help you visualize the impact of your contribution, M&S created a nifty little app that posts a piece of trivia for every article of clothing you drop onto a mannequin. Donate a blouse, for instance, and Oxfam gets £5 to buy a container for four families in Nigeria to collect water and keep it free of diseases. Drop off a purse and Oxfam has an extra £16 to protect a hectare of Colombian rainforest. (And yes, that’s Twiggy smiling at you from the top of the page.)
GIVE AND TAKE
This initiative is part of M&S’s Plan A series of commitments to achieve by 2015, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer. The Oxfam Clothes Exchange, which began as a six-month trial in 2008, was recently voted the most admired corporate-charity partnership by C&E, a corporate social responsibility consultancy that described it as the “best example of a partnership delivering on corporate mission for both the business and the charity.”
Since 2008, the sale of the used clothes has raised roughly £3 million for Oxfam while preventing 2,500 tons of waste from entering landfills.
The scheme has since grown to include an annual “One Day Wardrobe Clear-Out,” the most recent of which generated 400,000 pieces of clothing in a single day. Since 2008, the sale of the used clothes has raised roughly £3 million for Oxfam while preventing 2,500 tons of waste from entering landfills.
“It’s clear that far too many clothes still go to landfill when they could be making money for charities and helping the environment,” says Richard Gillies, director of Plan A, corporate social responsibility, and social business at M&S. “We’re calling on our customers to donate their clothes: it’s an easy way to make a difference and you get a great M&S money-off voucher.”
Doing good while encouraging return customers is a savvy business plan, indeed. M&S’s message is clear: Don’t just throw things away; they could very well save the life of someone in need.