Marks and Spencer
Companies can test a portfolio of new ideas in small pilots. These can then be regularly reassessed, with some being halted and others scaled up as outcomes become clear.
In 2014, Marks and Spencer (M&S) launched its Global Community Programme (GCP) to make its supply chains more resilient to threats posed by climate change and an increasingly competitive supply landscape, especially in emerging markets. The GCP introduced a more robust and standardized approach to evaluate the company’s growing portfolio of programmes that create business and social benefits in its supply chains. M&S uses results from the GCP evaluations to scale interventions that make stronger contributions to supply chain resilience and to stop those that do not compare as well.
“It is important to avoid pilot fatigue. We’ve been working very hard to get visibility of all the global community programmes in the supply chain and focusing on the ones that drive the biggest social impact and greater supply chain resilience so we can scale them and stop the others.”
Louise Nicholls, Head, Responsible Sourcing, Packaging & Plan A, Marks and Spencer
For example, M&S initiated multiple pilots in Kenya along with its suppliers to reduce absenteeism among its employees. The pilots were designed to address the causes of absenteeism, including inadequate sanitation, livelihoods and security in the informal settlements where the employees lived. Two pilots were managed in parallel, a health training using peer facilitators at work and a three-day leadership course in both work and community settlements. Qualitative and quantitative assessments performed before and after the pilots evaluated the costs and benefits as well as the capability of partners to manage the programmes at scale. The leadership course showed better results: reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and leadership abilities and improvements in sanitation and security through stronger involvement by communities. The supplier saw a better business case and was willing to invest in scaling it up. On the other hand, the health intervention showed weaker results and required ongoing support from third parties, thus making it too costly for the supplier to finance it on its own.
Such experimentation helps M&S to understand the root causes of its supply chain risks better and to make smart investments in the most sustainable and scalable solutions. Lessons captured from earlier pilots, including the ones that were less successful or were stopped, make the design of the subsequent pilots faster and more effective.
The team responsible for GCP includes senior business representatives from across the company to ensure that the chosen programmes align with the business strategy and deliver tangible benefits to business and communities. Collaboration with its suppliers from around the world adds additional rigour – the team engages them through its supplier website, supplier conferences and other meetings. These platforms offer an opportunity for M&S to “sense check” pilot ideas with suppliers, gather best practices and evaluate the applicability of ideas across its global supply chains.
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