The Marine Conservation Society wins charity award for work with Marks & Spencer


The Marine Conservation Society has won a prestigious charity award for it’s partnership with UK High Street giant, Marks & Spencer.

The charity’s part in the ‘Forever Fish’ campaign won the ‘Corporate National Partnership of the Year with a Retailer’ award in the 2013 Charity Times Awards.

The partnership, part of the retailers eco and ethical programme Plan A, is aimed at highlighting the issues facing UK seas to M&S staff and customers, and focused on engaging people in beach cleaning activities whilst also focussing on the importance of eating more sustainable seafood.

The partnership allowed MCS to create a national volunteering programme called ‘Sea Champions’ which, in the last two years, has mobilised almost 300 people to help highlight marine issues within their local communities and added a second national beach cleaning event to the MCS calendar – The Big Beach Clean-up – which involved thousands of M&S staff and customers cleaning hundreds of beaches. 107 of the cleans were led by M&S store staff, bringing a real community feel to the event which also highlighted the huge problems litter on beaches poses to both marine life and visitors to the seaside.

Vicki Cockburn, Corporate Fundraiser for MCS, says the partnership has brought marine issues to a wide and new audience: “Collectively, it has almost doubled MCS’ volunteer network from around 10,000 to well over 19,000 people and increased our outreach capacity and ability to engage with people at a local level in the UK. We are thrilled that the partnership has been recognised by the Charity Times. It’s fantastic that an environmental initiative has won and a clear sign that issues like marine conservation is of huge interest to the public.”

MCS says the ‘Forever Fish’ partnership, largely funded by M&S introducing a 5p charge for single use carrier bags in their food halls which led to a drop in the number being used in store by 78%, has been a success because of the hard work put in by staff from both organsiations. “The enthusiasm that we have experienced from people who were completely new to our work, especially the M&S store employees, has been overwhelming,” says Vicki Cockburn.

M&S Retail Plan A Manager Rachel Jane Barton says she’s delighted that their partnership with MCS has been recognised this way. “In our first two years we’ve had 15,000 people collecting over 28,000kg of litter from 113 beaches. At the same time we’ve engaged our customers in the importance of clean beaches and what that means for the health of our marine life and the future of the UK’s fish stocks. Next year will be bigger and better and MCS will continue to play an important role in our Plan A programme.”

MCS says the M&S investment in the Sea Champion volunteer scheme will leave a lasting legacy and the charity hopes the award will show that businesses and charities can work together to improve the state of the UK’s seas and beaches.

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