As part of our Sustainability 2023 report, ESM caught up with industry leaders across a host of leading retail and consumer goods firms to discuss their ESG achievements to date, efforts made to tackle Scope 3 emissions, and what the current cost-of-living crisis means for sustainability – both for themselves and their consumer base.
Åsa Domeij, Head Of Sustainability, Axfood
In the current financial situation, it is possible that more focus on prices will make it more difficult to sell, for example, organic food. On the other hand, customers might become more aware of the climate crisis and the dependence on Russian gas, which, in turn, can increase interest in sustainability.
Higher food prices can also lead to households wanting to reduce food waste and make consumers more prone to try new solutions, such as mixing minced meat with beans when making popular Swedish dishes with pasta.
Axfood works with sustainability in a collaborative and cross-departmental way. The overall sustainability targets are decided by the executive committee, and the sustainability goals are common for the entire Axfood group.
Our different companies have the responsibility to elaborate action plans to reach the targets, but Axfood has a network with sustainability coordinates to ensure that the action plans support each other and that lessons learned from one part of the group can be used by others – but, of course, as in all large organisations, it is always a challenge when it comes to dissemination of information and knowledge.
It is especially important that governments support businesses with economic incentives to make their activities more sustainable. Another aspect of great importance is that conditions are long-lasting, to make it easier for companies to make investments and long-term commitments in greener technology.
Using Their Influence
Another factor, which is seldom discussed, is that companies have a great opportunity and responsibility to influence politicians, to improve their decisions aimed at changing society in a sustainable direction.
When it comes to ESG, it is necessary to be able to multitask and handle several issues at the same time. It is essential to focus on global environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity and chemicals, but that doesn’t mean that we can de-prioritise social issues in the supply chain and animal welfare.
In general, especially in this time of many crises, it is crucial that politicians feel that they have support from businesses, so that they can use the crisis to support sustainable development instead of losing focus in this difficult time.
This article first appeared in ESM’s November/December 2022 edition.