M&S invests £1m in tackling methane from burping and farting cows

Marks & Spencer is investing £1m in tackling cows’ carbon footprint by changing the diet of the herds that provide its milk.

The retailer is working with all 40 of the pasture-grazed dairy farmers in its supply base with the aim of cutting 11,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually produced by cattle burps and manure.

It said giving the cows a feed supplement derived from mineral salts and a byproduct of fermented corn would help prevent the animals’ digestive enzymes from forming methane and reduce the carbon footprint of its main fresh milk by 8.4%.

M&S said it was setting up a £1m accelerator fund for its ethical project Plan A, working in partnership with longstanding and new suppliers to find novel ways of achieving net zero carbon emissions.

One of the first projects supported by the fund will involve asking customers to donate unwearable clothes to Oxfam, alongside reusable clothing. These unwearable items will be cleaned and used to support fabric recycling, where fibres are reused and turned into new material, preventing them going to landfill.

Another test project will use AI data to predict six stores’ optimal heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls to reduce energy consumption.

Methane from cattle burps and manure is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions; globally, cows and other farm animals are responsible for about 14% of human-induced climate emissions.

The government said last year in its net zero growth strategy that it expected “high-efficacy methane-suppressing products” to enter the market from 2025 and could force farmers to use them if they prove effective.

More than three-quarters of M&S’s carbon emissions come from its supply chain. The business is aiming to reach net zero across the entire value chain by 2040 and within its own business by 2035.

Targets include doubling sales of vegan and vegetarian products by next year using 100% recycled polyester and 100% responsibly sourced palm oil by 2026.

M&S’s latest Plan A report reveals it is on target for most of its goals apart from plastic packaging, where it is yet to achieve its aim of 100% widely recycled packaging on food by 2022. Last year it reached 93%.

The M&S chief executive, Stuart Machin, said: “I talk a lot about the ‘magic of M&S’ – and a key part of this is our commitment to innovation. It’s in our DNA and, along with our unique model of own brand, long term supplier partnerships, it’s how we deliver the quality and trust our customers expect from us.

“By turning our obsession with innovation towards climate change and tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of our suppliers we can turbo charge our drive to be a net zero business across all our operations and entire supply chain by 2040. I’m excited by the big difference these small changes could make to some of the toughest climate challenges we face.”


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