UK retailer Marks and Spencer today (4 November) provided a half-yearly update on its Plan A "eco-plan" and said it is now "cash positive".

The five-year plan, which covers areas such as climate change, waste, sustainable raw materials, and fair partner and health, has made "significant" progress since the last update in June, the retailer said.

Of the original 100 commitments made when Plan A was launched in January 2007, 39 have been completed, 24 of which have been extended to cover what M&S said are "even tougher targets".

Around 53 commitments are "on or ahead of plan" and seven are behind. One commitment - the use of crop derived bio-diesel - is on hold until sustainable suppliers of raw materials become available, the retailer said.

"Despite unprecedented global economic uncertainty, the business case for Plan A continues to strengthen," said Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of M&S.

"The plan is now cash positive with savings more than offsetting investments and, as well as delivering significant benefits for our business, stakeholders and the environment, Plan A is changing consumer behaviour."

Of its achievements, Marks and Spencer said M&S Energy, which launched in October 2008, now has over 175,000 customers who are being rewarded for reducing energy use.

Food waste is now being returned for processing into energy at three of M&S' seven food depots with the remaining four going 'live' early in 2010, the retailer said.

M&S last week also claimed to have become the world's first retailer to purchase Green Palm certificates to cover its entire palm oil usage.

"We have only taken the first steps on a very long journey to becoming a sustainable company. Our business model will change over the next ten years as we become part of a more sustainable economy. This means new products, new services and more sustainability-focused customers and employees," Rose said.