Tractor farming

M&S has a goal to reach net zero by 2040

M&S has launched a sustainability innovation challenge for startups as it looks for new tech solutions to help achieve its net zero by 2040 goal.

The retailer’s Ignite team, which is responsible for innovation development, has partnered with investment firm True to look for ideas and technologies that can drive sustainability both in the supply chain and customer-facing operations.

The innovation challenge is divided into two sections: sustainable agriculture and changing customer behaviours towards sustainability, the latter focusing on tech innovations that can drive sustainable choices.

Startup and scale-up candidates are invited to apply to either or both.

“Calling all startups, we’re on the hunt for your latest innovation or technology, which will help us reduce our impact on tomorrow’s world,” said head of Ignite programme at M&S, Stuart Ramage.

“In return, we can turn an idea into reality and offer a trial backed by the scale of M&S as a global retailer, with support from our dedicated Ignite innovation team along the way.

“We’re really excited to hear all of your ideas as we continue to drive a culture of innovation across M&S.”

M&S is particularly on the hunt for solutions that can help reduce the carbon footprint of its farming systems, improve animal welfare as well as biodiversity and wildlife on farms, and develop methods to extend produce shelf life.

The winning solutions will receive a proof of concept with the relevant M&S business area to certify its feasibility, with the potential for full implementation and scalability.

The challenge is part of M&S’s plans to become a net zero Scope 3 business in less than 20 years, a goal it set when it revamped its sustainability programme ‘Plan A’ in September last year.

The grocer is already rolling out a major healthy eating campaign in partnership with national football teams, which uses marketing tactics to help shoppers make healthier and more sustainable choices.

Its Ignite team is also “constantly on the lookout for new, innovative solutions to help drive the business’ transformation and better serve customers”, it said.

It follows a similar contest launched by the John Lewis Partnership last year to help find environmentally-friendly solutions to some of the biggest challenges in retail.

Earlier this year, JLP announced the four winners of its £1m circular economy fund including “trail-blazing, scalable innovations” such as Dame, a period products company looking to make menstrual cups mainstream.