Yes it’s true. A customer complained after wanting to purchase ‘Boy Stuff’ for her daughter for Christmas. Welcome to the power of social media in the twenty first century. Marks & Spencer, the mega retailer, totaling $16.3 billion in revenue in 2013, has some mega news, and it all started through Twitter.
After a call out from a customer who wanted to purchase a marble run for her daughter as a Christmas present, she was halted by a marketing label that read ‘Boy Stuff.’ She called out Marks & Spencer via Twitter, and the company quickly responded that they would be canceling gender specific marketing for toys by spring 2014. Toys have a long history of being geared towards a specific gender, but for Marks & Spencer that is all about to change.
The company said in a statement: “’Boy’s Stuff’ will be rebranded to use a simple graphic logo, whilst the ‘Little Miss Arty’ range will become Poppy and Blue – which will use character based branding.”
As the first major UK retailer to be carbon neutral, Marks & Spencer is no stranger to innovative initiatives. During an internal assessment of the company, they found aerodynamics of transportation trucks can account for 50 percent of fuel consumption. The company responded by redesigning their vehicles for lower ‘drag’ and more fuel efficiency. The redesign rather serendipitously increased the truck’s carrying capacity by 16 percent, allowing more merchandise to be shipped by one truck than the previous designs.
In September 2012, Marks & Spencer released the ‘most sustainable suit ever,’ made from reclaimed material and GOTS certified wool. The suit claimed to be the first intricate garment made entirely from sustainable material, and was another large step forward from the company’s innovative initiatives.
Other big projects have included their Shwopping events, a collaboration with London College and Oxfam, which encourages a customer to give one article of clothing for each one purchased.
By now, corporations know, acknowledge, and act on the importance of providing options that keep sustainability at the forefront. And by sustainability I am not simply referring to environmental sustainability but, as important, social sustainability–which can truly be translated to responsibility.
From inside intel I know some of the largest corporations are taking steps towards more responsible practices, and listening to consumers, as is shown through the Marks & Spencer case. But most companies aren’t bringing information on their initiatives out to the public because they are in the midst of deep research around best marketing strategies–probably similar to why Marks & Spencer kept their gender neutral plans under wraps until the Twitter incident.
Whether a large corporation can actually be sustainable is another debate, for another time, but what is important to mention now is their efforts towards a better way of business–a triple bottom line approach, for people, planet and profits–should not be ignored.
What do non-segregated toys have to do with sustainability? A lot. The efforts of Marks & Spencer are exactly what is needed from a billion dollar multi-national corporation to try and sustain themselves in the local maker market of the twenty first century.
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image: geir tonnessen