At a gathering last week to celebrate the significant anniversary of a leading store design company, a very senior retailer remarked that he was environmentally aware because having a driver to ferry him around meant he was car-sharing and therefore green.

Well ha-ha. A ready wit never fails to make a party go with a swing.

What it also shows is that even within the confines of a decadent Latin-American-styled Soho restaurant-cum-bar, the eco-agenda is never far from people’s lips.

Yet with pressure on bottom lines being felt across retail, there must be those who are wondering whether following the green brick road is the right thing to do. Might it not make more sense to cut back on this kind of frippery and concentrate instead on saving money, maintaining margin and putting money in the tills?

The answer is probably yes. But the likelihood is that retailers are going to try to do both. M&S, the greendaddy of UK retail, is so far committed to its Plan A that there really can be no turning back and it is just possible that it may be on the verge of making green wash its face.

Fortunately for M&S – and there can be few things that Sir Stuart Rose regards as propitious at the moment – the store design element has been dealt with already. The blueprint for new-look M&S stores was pretty much completed before the end of last year and anything that happens now is likely to be mostly fine-tuning.

M&S also happens to have two stores that embody its green desires: Galashiels in the Scottish Borders and Bournemouth. The odd thing is that neither of these actually looks very green from the outside or inside. But they are full of the kind of eco-gadgets and gizmos that are capable of making real cost savings at branch level.

And there’s the thing. Green, whatever that may mean, is increasingly being regarded by retailers as an integral part of store design. Much legislation is in place already to ensure that new-build stores are more energy-efficient – cutting utility bills and reducing emissions at a time when the price of oil continues to break new records.

By this reckoning, retailers will require their store designers to do something very difficult: create functional, energy-saving interiors that are still eye-catching – and do it all for less money.

With evidence mounting on a daily basis that there is a recessionary flavour to almost every aspect of our economy, design and green are heading towards being bedfellows, whether they like it or not.