However, it was a panel discussion about Corporate Social Responsibility that I was most intruiged by, particularly because of the companies involved. Jim Allaker (VP & General Manager of Nike UK & Ireland), Richard Gillies (Director of Plan A at M&S), Peter Marks (Chief Executive at The Co-operative Group), and David McCullough (Deputy Chief Executive of Oxfam GB).
The discussion began with how brands need to not lose focus of the strive for socially aware and sustainable production in the midst of a downturn. The Co-op is a brand that seems to lead the way in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).
Nike added that their new DNA is about sustainable performance and by 2011, all their shoes will have been made considering waste reduction, construction efficiency and using more environmentally friendly materials. I'm happy to see the importance Nike are now placing on CSR. Not bad for a company that for years seemed tainted with the reputation for turning a blind eye to appalling work ethics in their Asian production factories.
It wasn't until near the end that the "Clothes Exchange" between M&S's Plan A and Oxfam came up.
I had already been aware of the campaign to reduce landfill waste, encouraging people to hand in their old, unwanted Marks and Spencer clothing to Oxfam in exchange for a £5 M&S voucher. I wasn't aware of it's success.
Sir Stuart Rose has previously described the move as "a triple win - it's good for customers, good for people in developing countries and good for the environment." According to Richard Gillies, the success was also seen in M&S sales.