Marks & Spencer is first UK retailer to achieve wildlife benchmark

Retail first in biodiversity

Retail first in biodiversity

Marks & Spencer is the first retailer in the UK to be awarded The Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark following the creation of a wildlife haven at M&S’s eco store.

The company’s Cheshire Oaks store, which opened in 2012, has extensive landscaping including green living walls, a pond and wetland area, trees, hedgerows and wildflowers. These features help to enhance the shopping experience for customers and are also enjoyed by the local community including schools and wildlife groups.

Biodiversity Benchmark is a standard which recognises land management for wildlife and awarded by The Wildlife Trusts only after a series of audits against criteria, including implementing effective action plans for wildlife on site.

Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ director, England, said:  “I congratulate Marks & Spencer on this excellent achievement at its new store in Cheshire Oaks. Marks & Spencer is leading the way for others by demonstrating that business and biodiversity can work together for mutual benefit.

“Let the directors in the boardrooms of Britain’s companies sit up and take notice and follow its example. We can all do the right thing for wildlife and the environment – and it’s good for business, the economy and jobs.”

The Biodiversity Benchmark award will be presented to Jon Turley, finance and operations manager at M&S Cheshire Oaks, in Ellesmere Port, at 10.30am on Wednesday 18 June, by Charlotte Harris, Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s chief executive.

Harris said: “We’re delighted to see the first ever retailers’ Biodiversity Benchmark awarded here in Cheshire, especially at a location where thousands of visitors can see the huge changes that have taken place at the Marks & Spencer store.

“The habitats created at Cheshire Oaks bring together the colours, smells and textures of our natural environment just inches from shoppers as they enter the store, whilst at the same time making a real difference to some of our struggling wildlife species. With homes for bats and declining birds like migratory swifts all integral to the build, M&S has shown that making the space for nature that we so urgently need can go hand-in-hand with a successful modern retailing environment, with creativity and support from local experts.”

Turley said: “Biodiversity has been a key focus at Cheshire Oaks ever since the site was first built. The wildlife at the site has been very popular with our customers and we host regular visits from local schools and wildlife groups. We are really proud to be awarded the Biodiversity Benchmark which will help promote our achievements to the wider world and will hopefully encourage others to come and enjoy the wildlife too.”

M&S employed local experts CES Ecology, during and after construction of the store, to advise on protecting wildlife and creating new spaces for nature. With their support, and that of land management contractor Hartnell Taylor Cook, the journey from initial enquiry to certification took only 29 weeks. This was testament to the fact that biodiversity was integrated into plans for the site from the beginning.

Wildlife was initially protected by relocating species at risk from the build into nearby areas, before an extensive plan was put into action to incorporate wildlife-friendly features into the state-of-the-art eco-friendly construction and the surrounding landscaping.

At the heart of the scheme is a new pond and ‘swale’, which is already attracting feeding common and soprano pipistrelle bats as recorded by CES Ecology’s team with specialist bat detectors. This work has been backed up by bat roosting boxes being included on existing mature oak trees on the site.

Additional hedgerows will, in time, provide a home for nesting birds like the declining house sparrow, whilst wildflower meadows are already providing vital nectar sources for bumblebees and butterflies, including swathes of fragrant lavender on the main approach to the store. Black poplars, one of the region’s rarest trees, have also been introduced to the site, just a few miles from mature black poplars at Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Gowy Meadows nature reserve.

One of the most exciting elements of the construction has been the inclusion of common swift ‘bricks’ into the building itself. These globe-trotting birds – which may fly up to a million miles in their lifetime – have suffered massively from changes to modern housing which has vastly reduced nesting opportunities during their brief summer stay in the UK. It’s hoped these new high-res residences at the store will prove to be a ‘des-res’ for these enigmatic birds.

Shoppers are able to find out more about the habitats and species around Cheshire Oaks, a popular destination for local schools, from information boards or from their phones, by scanning Quick Response codes.

Marks & Spencer joins other household names such as Center Parcs and Wrigley in achieving the Biodiversity Benchmark standard, which is subject to an annual audit by Wildlife Trusts experts.