Retailers Deliver on Green Promises

Shoppers in Europe are finding more green products on the shelves thanks to promises made by European retailers to promote more environmentally sustainable consumption patterns. A report monitoring the achievements of voluntary targets set by members of the European Retail Forum – a European Commission and Retail sector initiative – shows retailers are delivering on their commitments. As well as putting more sustainable products on supermarket shelves, retailers have also made progress in reducing their environmental footprint, paying particular attention to resource efficiency measures. Communicating with consumers on sustainability issues, however, is considered an area for improvement. The report recommends setting up an award scheme to reward best practice.

Since the Retail Forum was launched in 2009, retailers have set themselves a series of individual and specific environmental actions that contribute to sustainable consumption and production. Energy efficiency in buildings and increase in sales of more sustainable products are the priority activity areas for retailers. Some 280 environmental commitments have been made in three categories: what we sell, how we sell, and communication.

Monitoring of the first series of commitments for 2009 has revealed many examples of good practice. Visits made to stores in different Member States have shown that retailers are offering more green products to their customers.

For example, supermarket chain Carrefour has increased the number of own brand organic products by 83% compared to 2006 while Mercadona has achieved a 100% recovery rate for packaging waste in stores and distribution centres. Asda WalMart reduced CO2 emissions from fleet transport by 40% of 2005 levels and Lidl achieved a reduction of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2009 simply by using shopping bags made from recycled materials. More examples can be found in the report.

Although a number of examples of good practice in communicating with consumers were highlighted, the report found this was an area where retailers could do more. The report also recommends setting up an award scheme to recognise good practice.

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