Speaking at a 'Lean & Green' conference organised by consultancy S A Partners in London last month, Gillies stressed that M&S would work closely with its suppliers to meet its sustainability targets. However, he did not completely dismiss the suggestion that those that failed to come up to scratch might one day be delisted.
"What we have laid out to suppliers in the UK is a framework and a journey," reported Gillies, as he proceeded to list some of the environmental targets M&S had set and its achievements to date. "We are committed to having a certain number of 'gold factories', as we call them, over time."
An example of one-such factory is the 2 Sisters factory at Flixton in Suffolk, which slaughters, cuts and packs chickens for M&S.
"We are looking to move people on a journey," added Gillies. "We are certainly not looking to delist people in the short term."
Gillies said that the concept was all about convincing suppliers about the business benefits of becoming more sustainable.
"This is a real opportunity for suppliers to follow our lead, and many already have," he said.
"If we have reduced our energy use by 20% per square foot, why would they not want to do the same? There are a number of suppliers we have worked with who have introduced green energy particularly farmers and food factories."
Gillies explained that M&S was purchasing green energy from some suppliers on a fixed price basis over a fixed period of time. This, he argued, enabled them to make the required capital investment in small-scale hydroelectricity generation, anaerobic digestion and wind power.
"So, [this represents] new opportunities and new business models to respond to the changing times," he added.