Podcast: Mike Barry, Sustainable Change Maker, Former M&S Sustainability Director

June 26, 2023 Sophie Colquhoun

The latest guest on our podcast is Mike Barry, a Sustainable Change Maker. He's the man behind Marks and Spencer's Plan A initiative and he now consults brands such as Lidl, Ikea, Danone, Nestle and lots more. 

Mike came onto our podcast so we could find out more about how he got Plan A off the ground - from how they communicated it to colleagues to the huge impact it had and how this compounded. 

Plus, along the way he shares how direct brands can be more sustainable, how to avoid greenwashing,  where to start and lots more. 

You can listen to the full episode below: 

Or, if you prefer you can read the full transcript: 

Now, my guest today is a little bit different, and I am delighted to welcome him to the show. If you listened to our episode with Nathan Williams from Mamas & Papas, you might recognise the name Mike Barry. I don’t think Nathan will mind me saying this Mike, but he was absolutely singing your praises for the work that you did with him on Mama & Papas and their ESG strategy and he was actually so complimentary that we decided that we had to go get you on. So, it’s absolutely brilliant that you’re here, welcome to the show, how are you doing?

Mike Barry: Very well thank you, delighted to join you today on a bit of a cold grey day here near London and it reminds me of when, I did the work with Nathan in Huddersfield, North of England it was a scorcher. And with a sort of climate disruptive day, we’re all sort of dripping with sweat as we worked through what needed to be done and it’s a little bit of a reminder how quickly the climate is changing even on these sort of typically wet and windy isles.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes absolutely, absolutely so that’s really what we’re going to dive into today but before we get started Mike, I wonder could you give me a little bit of a potted history what you did at M&S specifically? What where you put in there to do and how did you go about it?

Mike Barry: Oh, my goodness, I’ll be very brief because at my age there’s so much you could say but I’ll avoid it. So, you know, whose Mike? Chemist by degree, three wonderful kids, 22, 20 and 18. I say that because that matters enormously to me and their future. I joined M&S in 2000 so 23 years ago now and I was recruited by the then Chief Financial Officer Alison Reed which seemed really odd because I was recruited to do this really lonely environmental job but I saw 14,000 of what he took a thousand shops. And I thought why is the CFO recruiting me and she said day one in this very plush office in M&S Towers. “Mike, confession to make no one else in the business really gives a toss about this but I do. I’ve no remit for the environment but I’ve smuggled you into the business as my Executive Financial Assistant. That’s what the HR team think you’re here to do, clearly, you’re not, you don’t know about finance, financial bucks. I will give you air cover and protection but basically, you’ve no line manager, no budgets, there’s one other lad who’s working hard in this space gap, a guy called Roland Hill, brilliant M&S lifer, knew it inside out. Get out my office and sort this green thing out”. So, for four years we had a brilliant little band of brothers and sisters that worked across the business to drive change. Inspiringly Stuart Rose came in to fight off a very ugly takeover attempt by Philip Green for the business and Stuart said, “I believe in this. I really want to be the world’s best retailer on sustainability and if you don’t, you’ll be looking for a new job”. So, in space of less than 100 days we wrote what became quite famous as Plan A because there’s no Plan B for the planet we’ve got. It’s 100 social environmental commitments 2007 to 2012 and it sort of, it saw the future to a degree. It saw this thing called Scope 3 took responsibility for M&S’s impact in its supply chains and consumer use of its products. it’s solving ports of business case which I’m sure we’ll talk about today. This is not just about doing nice things it’s about doing the right thing for your business value in the future. It saw the need to integrate and engage everybody in the business not just our small specialist team to do it. So, I sort of helped launch that plan, I helped to update it. But crucially the reason, the viewers can’t see Mike’s grey hair but there’s plenty of it, is I stuck there to help implement it which is tough, and I’ve got a lot of wounds and scars and learnings from that which I’ll share some of those with you today. And I came out the business in 2019, loved my time there, got pretty exhausted. Last four years I’ve just been freelancing across the economy helping multiple different businesses beyond retail and FMCG. It reached, helped them reach their potential in sustainability, love it to bits. I can’t imagine not working in some shape or form deep into my dotage but there’s never been a greater imperative but also opportunity to be driving this agenda in your business.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And you mentioned the business case there, so I want to kind of jump in on the big question. Right now, brands, all businesses are focusing on trading profitably. How can you prioritise sustainability in a profitable business plan? How do you make those two things meet?

Mike Barry: I’m smiling because in those 19 years at M&S I think we only paid out a bonus two or three times, so I was always working on Plan A with the rest of the team against a very difficult backdrop. Boards were coming and going, there were threats of takeovers again, there was cuts and challenges even when the rest of the marketplace was doing fairly well. So, what I’m about to say is grounded in the reality of working in a difficult financial environment and I appreciate what it’s like today. So, let’s just unpick what the business case is and I’m just going to put five bullet points into the room. I think the first phase for M&S was an internal risk management exercise to say, “Look we’re getting campaigned against a lot, fish sourcing, wood sourcing, labour rights, animal welfare. We just need to get a grip of it because we seem to be on a Friday night, quarter to midnight dealing with a call from every journalist saying, “What’re you doing?”, and we don’t know.” So, the first thing we did was just get a grip on that brand reputation issue. Second part of that was making sure we got a grip on cost base. It seems self-evident now but costs, energy costs were nothing like they are today, but we took a huge chunk out of M&S operating cost space in those first few years by focusing down on energy use in the stores, logistics, food waste, materials and net we saved the business 715 million pounds over ten years and that was incredibly important money for M&S to reinvest into its rebirth. So that was where we started off it was very much about risk and compliance. The second phase was starting to understand that our employees, 84,000 people that worked so hard for M&S through all this change wanted to work and do want to work for a business that has a heart and soul, a purpose and the passion and they were delighted to feel that they were working hard for good careers, relatively good salaries in the retail marketplace but they were working for a business that cared and enabled them to care and make a difference as part of their day job. So, it was about energising and driving that workforce through a lot of change because they’re working for a purpose lead business. The third part of it was very much about working to sort of reduce operational and supply chain disruptions from ever more weather extremes. So, I remember M&S Sheffield store being flooded out by extreme rain. Huge disruption of supply chain both in the UK and across Europe and the world by drought or floods. So, it was about making sure that M&S was, and its suppliers had a grip on that sort of risk architecture to the businesses smooth flowing. The penultimate bit, the fourth bit was about starting to engage with the customer and the 32 million people who shop with M&S. And M&S had lost its way by the early 2000’s. It dominated the 20th century around the word quality, democratise, the quality for the masses. Quality shirt, quality packaging, quality food. By the early 2000’s lots of people were doing it and M&S was struggling to explain its relevance. So, we sort of worked to reinvent the word quality around emotional quality. Good for you, clearly, but good for planet and people as well. So, give M&S a relevance as again it scrabbled for its new sense in the 21st century. It gave it a new sort of purpose in a very challenging marketplace and that was, that was really important for the business. And the final thing is where we are today which is starting to prepare for new products, new services, new categories. We’ve already seen it in the energy system from fossil fuels to renewables. We’ve seen it in mobility to shift from an internal combustion engine to diesel and petrol. The same level of profound shift will come on consumer goods, resale platforms for clothing is at its beginning, alternative proteins is beginning in the world of food but that’s scratching at the surface of what will come in the future. So, to me, they’re the five building blocks of sustainable change.

Sorcha O’Boyle: When you talk to the leaders of a brand whether that be M&S or someone smaller, it might be a one-person team. How can they adopt a sustainability mindset? How can they embed sustainability in everything that they do?

Mike Barry: So, I think the first and obvious place and I’m saying this very humbly because I lead a team of ten people out of 84,000 at M&S. Most SME’s, smaller businesses don’t ever have the ability to have more than half an FTE on this if not just the owner trying to do it. So, I think the first thing is be clear about what your impacts are. I mean I worked for a huge business with a huge array of 100 different social environments, impacts, most businesses are not like that. So, what are the two or three dominant things that drives your social environments impact? How do you employ people, what are you like as a neighbour to the community around you? What’s your energy cost and carbon impact associated with it? What’s your resource use and circularity opportunities associated with that. So, you’ve got to know where you’re beginning from. The second thing is, is that business case I just rattled through from M&S. Why do you need to do this? And for some businesses it will be because like M&S they’ve got very visible consumer presence in the marketplace and need to stand for something. For others it will because their young workforce want to see it being done. For others it’s about cost base and reducing it, for others it’s because they supply into a supply chain of a very big business, let’s just use Tesco’s as an example, which increasingly want their suppliers big and small to be moving forward in this space as well if you want continued access to their shelf in the future. So, there are many different drivers for each business uniquely. So, my second point is, make sure you understand what those drivers are. And the third thing then is, I’m a great believer 70, well 80-20 rule. 20% of what you do is probably a unique opportunity for your business. M&S ability to win in a difficult marketplace. 80% is about shared change because it’s difficult. A little example palm oil, palm oil’s used heavily in the food industry about 20% of food products associated with devastating deforestation in Southeast Asia and Malaysia and Indonesia. M&S wants to stop that deforestation in its food products, right thing to do, wow it’s hard. It’s a liquid commodity brought seven steps away from you. So, M&S has to work with Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s and Walmart and Pepsi & Co to sort of co-create a shared solution there. Same with government policy level there’s an organisation in the UK called RAP that’s bringing multiple different food and drink companies together to make sure that everybody’s gathering the same data on their impacts and sharing it up and down. So, 80% of it is about making sure that you work in partnership with the rest of your sector to drive change rather than to do it on your own. But be clear about the 20% that’s your secret source to help you uniquely win.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And if you have a brand who let’s say they have investors who have high targets and you know they’re aggressive, let’s say if we use that word. And you have someone a bit like when you’re at M&S and they are saying how do I demonstrate the value of an ESG strategy to the company or to the investors. How do you do that?

Mike Barry: Yeah, we keep circling back to this the business case and I’m not embarrassed to say I believe passionately we need a better future and I’m deeply worried about the future we’re stepping into. But I think businesses have got to see the value opportunity for doing this. So, I’m not going to repeat that, but I do think it’s not enough to have it loosely in your head just sort of kicking around thinking, “Oh yeah it’s better for our people and for planet and cost space”. You’ve got to be able to turn it to numeric to quantify it. So again, we worked really hard at M&S to build and again most businesses don’t have to do something as complicated as Plan A, but to make sure that each quarter we could report to the business we spent X pounds on energy efficiency, and we saved 2X pounds. We did the same old logistics on fuel use the same on plastics, the same on carrier bags, the same on coat hangers so you have to have a really quantifiable evidence for those both internally and those that own you or are important to you to show them that this is actually making a difference for you. You need to track it and again I’m being hugely humble here with maybe a predominately SME audience to say, “We can’t have one or two people doing this full time”. But you’ve got to weave it into your KPI narrative about how your business is running on a day-to-day basis and at least half of what was spoken about you’d be gathering anyway. You know what your energy bill is because you’re a good commercial organisation. You know how much you’re spending on raw materials; you’ll know the motivation and moral of your teams. You just need to make sure that that’s adding into your knowledge about your sustainability business case.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And I’m glad you brought up the word quantified because I think that’s a really, really important word to talk about. I think specifically when you’re looking at the customer, how you’re communicating with the customer. How do you avoid looking like your greenwashing?

Mike Barry: Yeah, great question and it’s, I’m reminded yesterday it was Delta Airlines, the day before it was Lufthansa. There’s any number of companies being rightly challenged on greenwashing using these very loose terms like carbon neutral and you know, we’re off setting. I’m going to give you the big picture as a big brand would see it like a M&S and then I’ll narrow it down. So, we’re, let’s start with where customers heads are at, at the moment. So, there are four segments of consumers as I would see it on green issues. 10% of people are passionately green and everything they do in how they consume or avoid consuming, let’s be clear, is driven by the lens of sustainability. But it’s only 10% and that numbers been pretty stuck there for a decade now. There’s a second group of 35% who are light green consumers. So, what they’re saying is I want great product, I want, you know, great holiday, great food, great fashion, well performing financial products but I also want them to be much greener than they are today. And I meet many business leaders who throw up their arms and say, “Well then Sir, Madam you can have it cheap but destroying the planet or you can have it expensive and saving the planet, your choice”. And I, I just think that’s rubbish. I think there’s a way of squaring the circle to deliver people products that are fundamentally better for the planet and brilliant for the end consumer and those people who get out of bed in the morning thinking, “Oh it’s impossible”, will be squeezed out of the marketplace. Now that’s not to say there aren’t some significancy short term head winds to bring price parity into the marketplace for those light green consumers there are, but again we can talk about it a little bit later there are tactics to deal with that green premium. The third group of people, so another 35%, who are deeply concerned about the future. Deeply, deeply, deeply concerned about the future but their lens is much smaller than the light green consumers. Born in Manchester, live in Manchester, die in Manchester, what’s anybody doing for Manchester? Don’t talk to me about the Artic and the Amazon, show me that by being more sustainable it will create better air quality, water quality, less litter, safer streets in Manchester. Green jobs for my kids and their kids to grow up doing. And again, just taking it away from the UK for a moment in the States Joe Biden’s done a really clever job with something called the Inflation Reduction Act, IRA, that’s brought 370 billion dollars of subsidies into green production in America. Sort of get those jobs back off China and a lot of that money is flowing into middle America that lost jobs to China 30, 40 years ago when the steel mills and the coal mines shut and then our building wind turbines and batteries and electric cars, create really good quality jobs for people, their communities and that’s what matters to our people. And the fourth and final segment is 20% of people are not engaged at all and that’s mainly driven by poverty. Too poor to engage and particularly in this current climate let’s respect that. But you don’t need 100% of people engaged to change the system. Now in that, so having rattled through that world let me face into this greenwash world. So apart from the 10% who are passionately green most people are on the edge of this shift. You know, “I’m sort of interested in green but I’m a bit worried it cost more and I’m a bit worried that I’m going to have to sacrifice some sort of quality and sort of aspiration to get there”. And we’re reassuring them they don’t. And this is where greenwashing’s so pernicious because what greenwash does it undermines confidence about the sector. I’m just about to buy green and suddenly there’s been an expose to say the claims from this big business are BS, you know, they won’t stack up in the court of law and a lot, some of it is mendacity businesses doing it deliberately wrong but even more of it is because businesses just do it wrong and there’s a great report out from an organisation called Planet Tracker and they’ve looked at six types of greenwashing out there and it’s a fairly good guide for businesses to say do this, don’t do that. The competition in markets authority in the UK the Advertising Standards Agency have come out with guidelines as to what, how to do it properly. But you want to be really careful about greenwashing because as I’ve seen over the last 30 years once your reputation is poor in the space, even if it wasn’t deliberate, you’ve ended in a bad place. It’s so hard to get your reputation back. So, I would almost say to anybody listening to this, don’t make a claim just yet until your absolutely confident that it stacks up and you can back it up in the marketplace.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay. Brilliant. Can we dive into the tactics on that just a little bit. How do you do it well? How do you avoid the accidental greenwashing?

Mike Barry: So, first things first, the first is data. So, we live in this sort of data and digital world, it’s just as important on sustainability as any other aspect of our lives. So again, I worked for a small retailer M&S it sells billions of items, food items, clothing items each year, that’s small. Walmart’s 25 times bigger than M&S it probably shifts 100 billion items a year. There will be fast moving consumer goods brands out there that, you know, the big global titans that shift hundreds of billions of items a year. You’re increasingly having to prove on an item level where it came from, what its impacts are. It’s not enough to just say, “I’m a big business, I’ve got net zero goal on a press release and that’s me protected from greenwash accusations”, far from it. You need to be able to prove at an item level that this change is happening. Now that’s not possible with a spreadsheet. Simply can’t do it with a spreadsheet, pen, paper, email, and abacus. With Big Data, with Machine Learning, with our dear friend Artificial Intelligence you can start to get your arms around these staggering data sets and again there’s been a new platform in the UK’s being developed called the Food Data Transparency Project, FDTP, which is starting to bring consistency across all the data that flows through cost, all the supermarkets and their suppliers to make sure it’s robust, it’s consistent, it’s gathered efficiently - important in this marketplace – but it underpins claims made by businesses. So that’s, so that’s number one. Number two is educating your team. So, I’ve just had a chat with the good people at Diageo recently again the purveyors of Guinness to the world, one of my favourite beers and they were talking about how they’ve put their entire marketing team through an education course on how to make sustainable claims. Now global business, I appreciate, it’s not the same as a smaller entity maybe listening to this but marking sure that your PR team, your comms team, your marketing team are literate in this space, and it’s not rocket science. I’ve talked about the ASA, the CMA etc., there’s reasonable amount of advice out there to help you navigate through it. The third thing is just a reminder to everybody where I started this conversation about M&S and the word quality. So, I meet lots of businesses dashing to the marketplace say, “Oh there this new green thing out here, let’s slap a green label on our product”. And actually, apart from the 10% most people are indifferent to that. They want to see that green is part of your brand proposition. So, M&S brand proposition is quality. If it sells it wins; if it doesn’t, they lose. So, making sure that sustainability slots into that quality proposition that says this is a high-quality product produced to high standards for you and for the planet, makes sense. So, making sure that you’re not clunky, an environmental way going to the, your offer just for the sake of it again quality problems. And that’s the final point if you are going to use labels use credible ones. There’s ones like the MSC for fish, FSC for timber, Fairtrade very obviously, Organic, but there are many, many, others which are starting to emerge. And actually, again I’m just 60 seconds of digression. I don’t think you’re going to walk into a Tesco Supermarket in five years’ time and look at 100,000 products with 100,000 labels on. Yeah, it’s madness. If you’ve got ten minutes to do your shopping, you’re on a budget, your kids are crying, you ain’t going to look at millions of labels. What Tesco’s will do is it will say first and foremost for those 100,000 products to be on our shelves you’ve got to prove to me, Tesco’s, that they are good ethical products, and they will therefore use labels almost as an internal policeman or woman project to make sure that what they allow on their shelves has first passed a Tesco’s test and then we’ll increasingly see things, again, I won’t use Tesco’s as an example because it’s pretending I know what they’re going to do. But you’ll see loyalty systems increasingly tracking your purchases. 60 products you put the product in your basket this week, here’s the carbon footprint in total. Next week you might want to buy X, Y and Z as an alternative, reduce your carbon footprint for your basket, here’s some reward points for doing the right thing as well. So, they’re all aspects of the continuum of how to avoid greenwash in the future.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay and for someone who isn’t as big as Tesco and doesn’t have the people power to put in their own quality labels, checkout their supply chain from start to finish. Are there any certifications that you would recommend that you find really good and robust?

Mike Barry: So, so, a tough one and rightly a tough one but actually the best is B-Corp Certification. Because what B-Corp does it’s looks at the totality of how your business operates across all dimensions of social, environmental, and economic and it just says, “Here’s the stamp of approval to say everything that comes out of this business, product and a service, is a good one and you don’t have to think beyond, it’s B-Corp as well.” Now, up front that’s an effort and a cost to get and you’ve got to think about that again in current climates whether that’s right for you. But my experience says in the current world we live in get B-Corp certification, it’s by far the best thing to do.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay and do you think it’s better to put a champion into the business, one person whose responsibility is to get that certification or one person who is kind of the evangelist on green issues or is it something that everybody needs to be doing 20% of the time?


Mike Barry: Oh, again go back to what I said about I lead a team of ten, I reported to the Chief Exec, but my fellow directors had teams thousands of people at M&S. My job was not to do sustainability for them it was to encourage them to integrate sustainability into their area, marketing, construction of stores, running logistics, buying products, running supply chains etc., and by integrating it into what they did making sure that they could see the value case of doing that they became more efficient, they motivated their teams, they differentiated their product cover. So, I was a coach and a mentor for the organisation so when we said an evangelist or somebody doing it for an organisation, I’m slightly nervous because everybody looks at them and thinks, “Yeah good old Mike over there he’ll sort this technical stuff out”. The person, if you do have a lead person, and it’s not for everybody, but if you do you want that person with great coaching, mentoring skills to help, to of course do the heavy lifting for a busy organisation and everybody else doing their day jobs but to make sure they understand why you’re doing it and when you step back after six months of intense work they keep pushing it because they understand why they’re doing it.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay. Brilliant. And can you point out a couple of brands to me who, aside from M&S who we know are great, but any brands who stand out to you as doing a really good job.

Mike Barry: let’s just sort of pick out a couple. I think some of the fast-moving consumer goods businesses now, again, I appreciate that they’re huge compared to maybe some listening here but the Unilever’s, the Danone’s the Nestle’s, the Coca-Cola’s, I think have done a really good job. And I’m going to sort of put for 60 seconds an argument into the room that is not relevant to most on this call just yet. So, I mentioned right at the beginning of the conversation that the transformation of the car system from being internal combustion engine to EV and that requires a radical change to every aspect of what it means to be a car company. Every nook and cranny needs to change of it’s [00:27:00]. The food, drink consumer goods sectors that I come out of have not yet entered that transformation yet where we look and think in 2035, we’ll be selling a radically different product and service producing it rightly a different way but we’re in the foothills of it. So those names I’ve just given I do tremendously respect as leaders in the world of FMCG. But they’re in the foothills of doing something I call making your existing business model less bad. So that you’re shaving, you know, 3% less carbon, 2% less humans rights abuse, 3% less animal welfare problems. Each year it’s good but all around us the world’s population is growing, the middle-class consumer base is growing and any sort of shave saving that we collect is swamped by the rising tide of more stuff for more people. So, I would challenge everybody in the marketplace who are of that scale just be looking over horizon saying, “Yeah good beginning but we do so much more in the future”. You’re then looking sort of the world of startups and I’m going to declare a vested interest. So, I’m, I work with a little organisation called climate school and what it does it’s a tool that helps educates the work force of big businesses. You know a systemic version of this conversation how to drive change as well. So, I think that’s the ability to do that is really interesting. The third thing I’m really interested in is businesses that support their supply chains and business partners to do this because it’s really hard. So, I do, again, I do a bit of work with the Climate Pledge, 400 companies around the world working on net zero which is sharing best practice on how a big business like a Ford can support 50,000 suppliers on this journey rather than expecting 50,000 suppliers to do it on their own. I’m really interested, I’ll talk about data and digital I think all the big players like AWS, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft are starting, again I stress the world starting, to build tools data tools to allow us to track and try sustainability issues across value chains as well. So again, I see banks, I think Lloyds and Natwest, are starting to grow a suite of tools to help the SME’s that bank with them. “How do you a carbon calculator? What is it? I can’t afford to do one myself”. “Well, here’s a Natwest or a Lloyds tool to help you manage it within your business”. So, a lot of the best practice I’m seeing now is big business is putting a friendly arm around their value chain those that they lend to, those that they supply them, to help them navigate through this quite scary and intimidating issue in the marketplace at the moment.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And as we’ve been talking a couple of key pillars have been kind of jumping at me from what you’re saying and that’s consistency, data and people and I kind of want to go back to what you’re saying about mentoring a little bit earlier. Can you explain what you mean by mentoring in terms of the sustainability value a little bit more?

Mike Barry: So, let me explain what it meant for me and then I’ll sort of broaden it out from there. So, say I worked for a business of 84,000 people, you know, 70 odd thousand working the shop floor and it would have been very easy for Marks & Spencer’s to say with Plan A, we’ve just launched a 100-page report to 100 opinion formers, NGO’s, Governance etc., to say M&S is going to become much greener. Just leave it to us you carry on making things, moving them, selling them to consumers, it’s hard, it’s challenging. But M&S said, “No, we want everybody in this business to own it”. So, you know, clearly that starts with this concept of Plan A. So, for 99% of the journey writing this 100-point plan it was called Marks & Spencer’s 100 Point Sustainability Plan. Dull as fricking ditch water. And what happened is that the Head of Internal Communications at the time a guy called Robert Nuttall just before launching it said, “Mike that’s so dull”, and he invented this brand Plan A because there’s no Plan B for the planet we’ve got. And it then meant whether you are reducing salt in food or improving Bangladesh factories or high streets in Scotland or working with Kenyan farmers it’s all just Plan A. So, there’s this transformation brand that linked everybody’s small activity to a bigger whole. The second thing we did we listened, we listened, we listened, we listened, because you know you could be in this sort of glass Head Office block in London and no idea what’s happening elsewhere in M&S. So, we listened to colleagues, they came up with ideas. “Mike, can you solve this waste here because the Head Office makes stupid decisions”. So, we stopped it. The third thing we did is we invited the supply chains in, again in the same way into this and we created a network of five green shops, five green factories and 20 green farms where we trial every possible innovation. And when you find a third of it worked you roll it across all the other stores and factory’s and farms. A third of it needed tweaking so it stayed there for a year to be perfected before it’s rolled out and a third was rubbish, you throw it in the bin. So that was the third aspect of it, was just making sure that we trialled and tested lots of new ideas. The fourth thing was what I talked about business case. That really drove people engagement across the business so everybody can think, “Okay, we’re saving the planet but in saving the planet we’re building a better M&S, good I’ll support that and a better life as well”. And the fifth thing and the final thing was again we built networks of coaches and mentors to train the trainers. So, they’ll be ten of us in the middle, but we make sure that every shop had a climate champion. They all had busy day jobs, they all did something front of house or back of house in the shop, but they put their hand up and said, “I want to be the planet champion for my shop, and I want to encourage and mentor and guide my teams locally rather than one person that’s sent to try to do it all as well”. So, they’re five things I’ve learnt about the power of organisation of coaching and mentoring.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Are you hopeful that we’re going to achieve what you want to achieve?

Mike Barry: Hey, $64,000 question. So let me sort of case for the prosecution, case for the defence. The case for the prosecution says, “The worlds warmed by about 1.2 degrees, so far, and we’re heading for probably about 3% of warming by the end of the century.” You’re probably listening looking out on quite a grey, cool June day like me thinking, “Really does that matter?” Context the world was once about five to six degrees colder on average. 23,000 years ago, and a good half of the British Isles was under a thousand metre of ice, it’s the Ice Age. So, five or six degrees colder as a global average was enough to unleash a thousand meters of ice above many of our heads. What does three degrees hotter look for nine or ten billion people struggling to survive on this planet. It is truly, truly, existential and the current government corporate response to it is nowhere near enough. Let’s be really clear just, you know, a few sort of press releases saying, “Yeah I’ll be net zero in 2040/2050 come back then and ask me how I’m getting on”, is just not, wouldn’t cut the mustard. So that’s my case for the prosecution I’m really worried, I’m a scientist, I’m mentioned my three kids at the beginning of the discussion, God, what, you know, what are we leaving them behind? What are they stepping into? The case for the defence says, but for the first time the changes that we have unleashed are going from being small and niche to exponential change and again you only have to look at the stats at the deployment of wind and solar around the world, the take up of EV’s to understand that change that takes years to get going suddenly goes off like a rocket. Now I think the truth lies somewhere in the spectrum between those two extremes. I don’t believe we’re suddenly going to become a green, nice, planet. Overall, again, the geopolitics of the world are quite complicated that well it’s just hard to get global improvements and actually as a pragmatist one of the things that’s spurring us in the right direction at the moment is the competition between China, the EU, and the USA for green growth. I talked about the Inflation Reduction Act in America. China’s got its own version. the European Union got its own version and these are not particularly nice people chasing green growth for all the reasons they should be chasing it they just want jobs and growth and geopolitical advantage but it’s spurring things on. So, I believe it is inevitable in summary that we are going to live in a climate disruptive world that is very much harder to live in than the one today. I don’t want to sort of pretend otherwise but I do think there’s a way of navigating through that to minimise the harm on current generations and future generations as well. But it means we all need to get off our backsides and do it.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And Mike, if someone wants to get in touch with you to learn how to do that how do they find you?

Mike Barry: So, I’ve got a website www.mikebarryeco, all one word, dot earth. I’ve also got, you’ll find me on Linked In, all persons sort of social media network is it not? But I talk a lot on there about best practice. About a third of what I say is a brick in everybody’s pond to say we need to do more. But two thirds of it is very much about practical solutions and how people can move this forward.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay, fantastic Mike I really enjoyed that. Really, really inciteful conversation. Thank you.

Mike Barry: It’s an absolute pleasure to join you and I say to anybody listening, good luck, keep our feet on the ground, times are tough right now, but we all need to be part of the revolution for a better future.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Thank you.

Mike Barry: Thank you.

Sorcha O’Boyle: That was Mike Barry. Thanks for listening to this weeks episode of the Industry Leaders Podcast and don’t forget that you can catch up on all of our previous episodes wherever you get your podcasts. That’s it for this week, so from me Sorcha O’Boyle and the team at More2 take care and bye.



Share This: