Marks & Spencer has announced plans to tackle unemployment, skills shortages and poverty in 10 areas around the UK as part of a new community transformation programme.
The retailer will work with local councils and charity partners on a programme of activities that includes providing plimsolls for children starting school, events to prevent loneliness and employee volunteering. The programme will be rolled out to a further 100 locations by 2023 and aims to be in 1,000 communities by 2025.
M&S is in discussions on the project in Birmingham (focusing on Handsworth and Handsworth Wood), Bradford, Glasgow (focusing on Easterhouse), Liverpool (focusing on Toxteth and Dingle), Derry/Londonderry, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, the London borough of Newham, Norwich and Rochdale.
Each of the 10 locations will have a programme of activities that is expected to include support for children starting school, including 10,000 pairs of plimsolls; careers advice, CV and interview support and work experience for school leavers; investment in outdoor spaces; grants to support food surplus charities and employee volunteering.
Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “Marks & Spencer has been at the forefront of social change for 133 years and we’re determined to play a leading role in the years ahead by taking positive action to enable customers and communities to live happier, healthier lifestyles.
“Through our UK-wide store network we are seeing more and more evidence that communities need support from partners like M&S to positively deliver change. We’ve looked at what matters to communities, which are issues like access to work-place skills, social inclusion, support for mental health problems and believe we can play a key role and make a real difference to community life. We’re starting with ten so that we can learn, adapt and develop an agile approach.”