In many ways, Berlin is the place to be. The German capital is home to 3.7 million people from 193 countries around the world. It is Germany’s political center, home to universities and academia, the headquarters of numerous corporations and the German Silicon Valley. When more than 300 representatives of the consumer goods and retail industries came together on October 24th and 25th for the 4th annual Sustainable Retail Summit of The Consumer Goods Forum in Berlin-Mitte, Berlin also became the center of hard facts and truths.

In 2019, in the face of political upheavals, climate crisis, country conflicts and increasing pressure on valuable resources, the time is long overdue for a cash check. Not least the pressure from various NGOs on The Consumer Goods Forum’s Net Deforestation target for 2020 makes it clear: words must be followed by actions. And where actions do not correspond to the announcements, it is time to lift the veil and look behind the facade. Why do projects fail? Which roadblocks are in the way? Are the reasons to be found inside or outside an organization? Which factors were underestimated? Is more or different partnership needed and are there ideas and solutions to tackle the challenges?

CGF Sustainability Initiative Co-Chairs Veronika Pountcheva (METRO AG) and Christine Montenegro McGrath, Mondelēz International speak on the initiative’s focus areas.

The primary task of the Sustainable Retail Summit (SRS) of The Consumer Goods Forum is to provide a pre-competitive, cross-industry platform for open exchange on these questions. Attending SRS means that you are in for sharing – experiences, ideas, challenges, and success stories. In our eyes, it also means that you are willing to take action in order to move the needle.

In 2019, the SRS stages were the platform to exchange on topics such as forced labour, health & wellness, food waste and deforestation – a platform shared by industry and retail, NGOs, and opinion leaders. What we ultimately learned: urgent action is needed in all of these areas. Be it the fact that none of us companies can guarantee that our global supply chains are free of forced labour, be it the fact that our current diet leads on the one hand to an increase in overweight and associated diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and on the other hand – through oversized demand – agriculture and resources are put under enormous pressure while hundreds of millions of people worldwide are suffering from hunger. Be it the fact that we all fall short of our 2020 zero net deforestation objectives; or the fact that food waste remains a tremendous challenge, devouring tons of valuable resources on the one hand and emitting tons of climate-damaging greenhouse gases on the other.

With the set-up of the “Coalitions of Action” announced in the opening key note by its managing director Peter Freedman, The Consumer Goods Forum has now laid the organizational foundations for accelerated action: Ownership, responsibility, and holding each other accountable for commitments, milestones to be reached and decisions along the way. With this set up, we at METRO are optimistic that in one year time, and with the 5th edition of the Sustainable Retail Summit, we will be able to see true progress across the industry – especially with regard to the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative and the deforestation commitments.

Official Cocktail & Dinner Hosted by METRO AG

To us, SRS Berlin was not only business. We enjoyed being able to host the visitors at our coffee bar and for our special dinner. With fairtrade coffee from our own brand Rioba (more than 500 cups were served by our barista), chocolate made from traceable cocoa from CEMOI (around 300 chocolate pieces were snacked away), fantastic deserts made from surplus food that was doomed to go to waste, and the example how with joint forces international water foundation One Drop and METRO build safe access to drinking water and sanitation for at least 250,000 people in northern India, we wanted to show that there are already solutions in place for the challenges we face. There are better paths to take, and it is our task to now start moving. We need to gain speed, we need to act – there’s urgency in the challenges we need to tackle. Being part of The Consumer Goods Forum means having understood that no one person, company or NGO can do this alone. Partnership is needed, collaboration is key. We have the set-up and the opportunities to become game changers. Let’s get moving, so that at SRS 2020 we can all deliver results.

This post was written and contributed by:

Exclusive Partner of the 2019 Sustainable Retail Summit