Greener Pastures: Sustainability Advancements by Grocers

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Sustainability is not optional for businesses these days, and that’s because consumers are far from shy about demanding it.

In fact, businesses that don’t mark progress in going green are at a significant competitive disadvantage in terms of their public images. That may be why 77 percent of U.S. food and beverage companies report changing or adding products based on consumers’ ethical or environmental concerns, reports a white paper released last year by accounting firm Green Hasson & Janks. Sixty-seven percent of industry execs surveyed believe being sustainable is good for public relations, while 61 percent believe customers will choose one product over another based on corporate social responsibility practices.

“Modern consumers are educated about environmental issues, and it takes more than simply ‘razzle-dazzling’ them with pretty packaging or a catchy advertisement to win their business,” notes Marketing Manager Sarah Phelan of the survey. “They want substance. They want to know facts. And those demands have driven companies to respond accordingly to be competitive.”

Some ways U.S. grocers are responding to the challenge:

Energy conservation: Supermarkets across the nation are evaluating their use of energy resources to save money and shrink their carbon footprints. For example, Pennsylvania-based Giant Eagle and its 700 stores have reduced the firm’s refrigerant emission rate to well below the industry average, earning the company GreenChill recognition. Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is conserving more than 1.6 million gallons of water annually and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2,800 metric tons. And late last year Walmart completed a $140 million, 79.2-megawatt solar energy project in Alabama that will power all area Walmart stores while helping to drive down energy costs for area homeowners. 

Recycling: Grocers are finding alternative uses for their expired or unwanted goods. Michigan-based food retailer/ distributor SpartanNash donates its display food from tradeshows to food banks; and recycles produce, bakery and dairy waste into cattle feed.

Waste control: Supermarket leaders are also seeking new and innovative ways to reduce, redirect and/or eliminate the amount of waste they contribute to landfills. For example, Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. seeks to exceed the EPA’s zero waste threshold of 90 percent in all facilities by 2020. In search of similar results, many stores are switching to RPCs for product shipments so they do not have to manage corrugated waste. 

Grocers that haven’t considered converting to reusable containers for their shipping needs may be missing out on a great chance to support their sustainability goals. They can significantly reduce or eliminate packaging waste as reusable containers can be used over and over again. RPCs can also reduce fuel costs, as they do a better job cubing out trucks and reducing the number of trucks needed to move product. And, they can make a dent in solving the 40 percent of food waste that regularly occurs across the food industry, since their structural integrity reduces your amount of damaged and unsaleable product. That’s a win for both you and your customers.

One major North American grocery retailer said earlier this year that its use of RPCs eliminated the usage of approximately 17 million pounds of corrugated and 114,000 trees, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an accumulated 37,518 metric tons. And, Walmart recently noted in its Sustainability Playbook that switching to RPCs from corrugated cardboard boxes allowed the retail giant to prevent the loss of 37 million eggs in the first year of use.

There are many ways to advance your sustainability efforts as noted above. Contact Tosca to learn more about the sustainability benefits of converting to RPCs.

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