Integrating sustainability into your grocery operations isn’t just good for the environment; it’s also good for business. A January study by international consumer products giant Unilever found that globally, a third of all consumers are buying from brands that practice sustainability. The study didn’t just ask consumers in five countries what they were doing, it compared their actual purchasing behaviors to their claims, and found people really do prefer to do business with companies they perceive as contributing to social and environmental good.
Unilever also found that 78 percent of Americans say they feel better when they buy products that have been sustainably produced. What’s more, the company’s own experience illustrates the impact of the sustainability trend; Unilever brands that have emphasized and marketed sustainability accounted for nearly half of the company’s global growth in 2015, growing 30 percent faster than the rest of its businesses.
Grocery operations can mimic Unilever’s success at leveraging social and environmental responsibility by making sustainability central to their operations.
Front and center
Many grocery operators are already integrating sustainability into their supply chain. However, if you’re looking to improve your organization’s focus on sustainability, a multi-pronged approach can help you progress toward that goal:
- Go local — Not only is consumer demand rising for locally produced food, product that travels shorter distances from production point to store shelves generates less greenhouse gases in the transportation process. Promoting locally sourced products in your grocery operation also helps support the community by sustaining local economies.
- Source sustainably — Seek purveyors whose products are raised, harvested and processed following sustainability guidelines.
- Create a sustainability culture — Educate employees on the importance of reducing waste and maximizing recycling throughout every phase of your supply chain.
- Design wisely and efficiently — Ensure your facility incorporates sustainability into its physical design by choosing energy-efficient lighting and equipment.
- Improve packaging — Packaging is a significant contributor to the waste stream at virtually every phase of a product’s life cycle. In addition to providing shoppers with reusable carryout bags instead of disposable paper or plastic bags, look for ways to reduce your operations’ use of single-use packaging like corrugated boxes. Reusable plastic containers (RPCs) can significantly reduce a grocery operation’s packaging waste, as well as reduce food waste caused by product damaged during transport.
Sustainability has evolved from a passing trend to become entrenched in the American consumers’ list of priorities when deciding where to shop. Grocery operations that put sustainability at the center of their processes and policies can reduce their environmental impact while elevating their brand’s appeal in the eyes of eco-conscious consumers.
When you choose to make sustainability a signature of your grocery operation, it’s good news for everyone, including consumers, the environment and your bottom line.