AMSTERDAM, 28th OCTOBER 2022 – The third and final day of the Sustainable Retail Summit 2022 in Amsterdam began with a discussion around a hugely important element of sustainability strategies: plastics and package are making pledges to ensure products are recyclable by 2030.
Willemijn Peeters, CEO & Founder at Searious Business spoke about how consumer behaviour can be changed with the right strategy. Guillaume Lebert, Sustainability Director for Fabric Care Europe at Procter & Gamble, shared that consumers need easy choices at fixture. They do not spend a lot of time browsing, therefore making sure consumers easily understand the contents and packaging of the product is key. Simplicity in production is also crucial, and Kerstin Lindvall, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, ICA Gruppen, highlighted the need for businesses to reduce complexity with different materials in a product, with one material we can recycle as a whole. Gerald Rebitzer, Director Sustainability, Amcor, said he believes the power lies in the hands of the manufacturers and waste management companies. He stressed that if we leave recycling and sorting materials to consumers then we won’t make great shifts forward. As summarised by Lindvall: the pilots and innovation of today, are tomorrow’s standard.
Following on from the important messages shared by the Youth Board from Biteback 2030 from the day before, Frans Muller, President & CEO, Ahold Delhaize, shared how important it is for businesses to take the lead on empowering choice to ensure healthy and affordable products. Fifty-five percent of Ahold Delhaize’s own brand sales will be from healthy products by 2025, and Muller urged other retailers to make similar commitments. Bold actions are expected of us as manufacturers and retailers, and he urges industry to challenge itself and drive further change.
Isabelle Kumar invited Pablo Montoya Davila, Sustainability Director, Grupo Éxito, and Ayla Ziz, Senior Vice President Global Sales, Chief Customer Officer at Danone, to continue the discussion. Davila shared the Latin American perspective as he mentioned that 41% of households face food insecurity across LatAmwhich rises to 50% when we look at only households with children. The group focused on the importance of understanding the local and community needs when considering health and nutrition, with Ziz referencing programmes which differ in both France and the USA, and the different approaches taken to have an impact on underprivileged communities. Muller emphasised the complexity we face as an industry, and shares the secret: start local. Local actions with solutions tailored to community needs will give big businesses agility in different regions.
Sustainable business is smart business, and investing in people is an important topic at SRS 2022. Paul Lalli, Global Head of Human Rights, The Coca-Cola Company, highlighted the importance of collaboration – a key concept at this year’s SRS- , stating that companies will not succeed in tackling forced labour if they go alone in the journey. Discussion on best practices and real-time challenges is the key. Nienke Stam, Program Director Landscape Finance, IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, highlighted the complexity of tackling forced labour in this area and the need for a multistakeholder approach, working with different commodity buyers and taking a landscape approach with long-term sourcing commitments. Mathew Jacobson, Director, EU Strategic Support Center, Meridian Institute, made the important point pointing out the intersection between human rights and forestry. Important steps are being made, believes Lalli, and transparency is becoming more prevalent. Didier Bergeret, Director, Sustainability, The Consumer Goods Forum shared that positive action is taking place, as the HRC and Forest Positive Coalitions both work to support local communities and workers. , Jacobson confirmed deforestation and human rights are top of mind for consumers when they think about causes they are concerned aboutNienke Stam believes we should close the gap between procurement and sustainability functions and think about sources further up the supply chain.
After a short networking break, delegates were brought together in the main room to hear from Angelo Vermeulen, Space Systems Researcher, Biologist and Artist, who shared the principles of ecosystems, such as the web of connectivity and the impact a single change can have on an ecosystem. To be successful, Vermeulen adds, an ecosystem must be interconnected, regenerative and decentralised – a concept Vermeulen wants the group to remember going forward. Delegates are then split into groups of six and tasked with designing their own regenerative ecosystem, utilising the existing knowledge and expertise from around their table. Creativity began to flow and discussion erupts around the room as the task is set. Assisting the groups with their conversations are The Consumer Goods Forum experts Aliya Kumekbayeva, Sustainability Manager; Sharon Bligh, Health & Wellness Director; and Eva Kritharelli, Healthier Lives Manager. Ideas from the groups are varied and inspiring, with each group taking a slightly different approach to bring their viewpoints to the table. Producing food and managing waste locally were some of the most frequently featured solutions, as well as the concept of working with the local weather systems – i.e. , solar panels in sunnier climates or wind turbines on flat land. Many groups focused on closed loop systems as a utopian scenario in an ecosystem, with consumption directly feeding nutrients.
In the following session, Lola Young, Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, considered the current legislation addressing modern forms of slavery, wondering if it is fit for purpose. Lady Young argued more can be done around the legislation and that we have a long way to go, with no room for complacency. Only 60% of businesses that should be reporting on modern slavery are actually reporting. Covid had a negative impact on this topic, as we struggled to audit our supply chains; in some cases, ethical supply chain practices were abandoned, as companies rushed to secure products, but it is now time for us to rectify those downfalls. Although it is a dark picture, it isn’t hopeless.
To end a hugely inspiring and action-orientated SRS, Angelo Vermeulen I was welcomed back to the stage to share his views on how space exploration can enable us to think further into the future. Space exploration seems far away from our current concerns, but in fact its science gave us an understanding around climate change. For our industry, another relevant outcome from space exploration research is the scientific studies about astronauts’ lives when in space. One such experiment, in which Vermeulen participated, reiterated the understanding that food culture is closely intertwined with the human experience: people appreciate food, cannot survive on eating the same thing for long periods, and want to share food together with others. Vermeulen closed his session, and the 2022 edition of the SRS, with a reminder about the Overview Effect: seeing something from a broader angle helps us to put problems into perspective and prioritise the issues we need to tackle.
Delegates gathered together for a Closing Lunch, before heading home with new connections, updated knowledge and a reinforced conviction that it is only by working together with all involved stakeholders that we will be able to move our industry forward.
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Notes to editors
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About The Consumer Goods Forum
- The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is the only CEO-led organisation that represents both manufacturers and retailers globally. It brings together senior leaders from more than 400 retailers, manufacturers and other stakeholders across 70 countries.
- CGF accelerates change through eight Coalitions of Action: forests, human rights, plastics, healthier lives, food waste, food safety, supply chains and product data.
- Its member companies have combined sales of EUR 4.6 trillion and directly employ nearly 10 million people, with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain. It is governed by its Board of Directors, which comprises more than 55 manufacturer and retailer CEOs.
For more information, please visit: www.theconsumergoodsforum.com
The content of this press release was written and contributed by Eve Crump, IGD.