British retailer Marks & Spencer has pledged to raise £25m for charities tackling cancer, heart disease, mental health issues, loneliness and dementia as part of its newly launched sustainability plan.

Plan A 2025 builds on the first ten years of Marks & Spencer's Plan A, which included raising £25m for Breast Cancer Now since 2001 and £10m for Macmillan. In addition to raising a further £25m for charities, their new plan aims to provide support for 1,000 communities, help 10 million people lead happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business. They hope to achieve this eco-friendly status by making all their packaging widely recyclable and ensuring any key raw materials they use are sourced sustainably.

They have also pledged to have colleagues worldwide complete one million hours of work-time taking part in community volunteering between now and the year 2025. Furthermore, they have created a pilot programme which aims to support communities by delivering positive, measurable change across ten locations in the next two years. Here they will tackle key problems such as unemployment, skill shortages, poverty, loneliness, mental health and general well-being. Initiatives which are successful will then be rolled out by 2023 to an additional 100 locations and anything learned from these programmes will be shared with 1,000 locations by 2025.

Steve Rowe, who took over as M&S's new chief executive just over a year ago, has said the fashion, food and homewares retailer is determined to play a leading role in social change by supporting these community projects. Cities who will benefit from these programmes include Rochdale, Glasgow, Middlesbrough and Liverpool.

M&S's initiatives also include cutting their carbon emissions drastically and giving grants of up to £50k for community businesses, provide careers advice to young people and 10,000 pairs of plimsolls for young children who are starting school. The plan will also promote the reuse of clothing by launching a repair service which ensures that M&Ss clothing and homeware goods are made to last and can be reused and recycled as efficiently as possible.

The retailer has also said it will enter into a new collaboration with Oxfam GB, who we've written about before, over the next three years. This partnership will focus on the UK and India to develop a deeper understanding of the connection between sourcing practices and human rights impacts.