The Consumer Goods Forum Sustainable Retail Summit kicked off on Wednesday, as delegates attending the physical event at the Tour Eqho venue in Paris were joined by several hundred online attendees for an insightful discussion about 'the evolving face of sustainability' in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following an introduction from The Consumer Goods Forum managing director Wai-Chan Chan, the first day of the Summit got underway with a video presentation from Simon Roberts, CEO of Sainsbury's, on the topic of 'Thought Leadership at the Crossroads of Health & Sustainability'.
As he explained, sustainability is an issue that "requires us all to think differently", with Sainsbury's recognising the need to engage with suppliers and consumers as it becomes a more sustainable business. An interesting takeaway was around the group's efforts on reducing Scope 3 carbon emissions (i.e. emissions along the supply chain), with the retailer requesting that its top suppliers submit their emissions data in order to drive greater visibility.
Also of note in the morning session was a joint presentation by Bertrand Swiderski of Carrefour and Ayla Ziz of Danone, who reported on how they are utilising collaboration to enable consumers to make more ethical and healthy choices.
One of the striking takeaways from this presentation was around best before dates, and the role that they could play in food waste. "Why do we have a best before date on pasta, rice and other dry goods?" asked Swiderski. Eliminating this would, he argued, lead to less food that is perfectly edible being thrown out.
Elsewhere, Maria Neira of the World Health Organization shed some light on the group's manifesto for a healthy and green recovery – "To achieve sustainable food systems, we need to look at many pieces of the puzzle," she said – while there was also an interesting discussion with Kin&Co's Rosie Warin and Unilever's Rebecca Marmot on the changing nature of employee wellbeing through the pandemic.
"One of our core values is 'nudge, don't judge' – see where people are at and nudge them along the journey," said Warin.
Making Sustainability Frictionless
A joint presentation from PA Consulting and Jacobs – a business that has adapted from being an engineering firm to one that is more project delivery focused – examined how businesses can pivot themselves to achieve sustainable success.
"Those that make sustainability frictionless are the ones that will win market share," noted PA Consulting's Kim McCann.
After lunch, the Carbon Trust held a live Q&A on how businesses can communicate their carbon product impact to consumers with confidence. As the Trust's Silvana Centty explained, with carbon offsetting or carbon reduction, it is "important to be clear with your story; what are you doing, what challenges have you had, how are you working internally and working with your suppliers."
The Consumer Goods Forum's Didier Bergeret hosted two afternoon sessions, the first of which explored how businesses are 'facing the burden of proof' when it comes to forced labour issues along their supply chain.
As Dame Sara Thornton observed during this discussion, when talking about Environmental and Social Governance, "we need to view the 'S' of ESG as being very much not in competition with the 'E'" – namely that social and environmental issues are closely correlated. "It's important to have that interconnection," she added.
Following on from this, an insightful discussion of the role that refugees can play in a company's supply chain featured some interesting takeaways – as the participants noted, the countries in which refugee numbers are at their highest, including Turkey, Colombia and Bangladesh, are also ones in which major CPG manufacturers have extensive supply chain operations.
"We need to connect the dots," as Shawn McDonald of Verité observed.
Mark Tuffin of US retail giant Kroger offered his observation on how the retailer (and the industry in general) is engaging with shoppers stateside to promote a sustainability message, even in areas where there has been some degree of community pushback against ESG measures.
"From a recycling standpoint, we continue to put the messaging out there, but it can be more difficult," Tuffin said of the challenges the retailer encounters in some parts of the US. "We continue to ramp up and look for new ways to engage."
Path To Net Zero
An afternoon discussion on the 'Path To Net Zero' featured insight from P&G and Maersk, and asked whether the technologies that current exist to facilitate decarbonisation can be ramped up sufficiently to influence the global supply chain, particularly when it comes to shipping and transport.
As Pietro d'Arpa of P&G observed, the consumer goods giant is in discussion with a company called 4Fold Containers on the development of foldable containers, which could reduce "empty miles" on the road by as much as 75%.
Another afternoon discussion on Circular Economy in Action explored how the 'Golden Design Rules' developed by the CGF’s Plastic Waste Coalition are helping businesses accelerate progress towards the use of less and better plastic.
This is more challenging when it comes to emerging markets, as Ella Flaye of Delterra (which is based in Indonesia) explained. As she noted, it is cheaper for western manufacturers to buy recyclable PET in south east Asia and transport it to Europe, than it is to recycle the PET produced in their own markets; a situation that is "ridiculous".
As Chris Daly of PepsiCo observed during the same discussion, it's about "getting the economics right" across the industry – with better deposit return schemes, more circularity can be achieved, leading to an increase in return of PET plastic.
Other sessions on day one included an analysis of how supermarket transaction records compare with the traditional methods for assessing diet, featuring researchers from the University of Leeds along with the Consumer Data Research Centre's Dr William James and Sainsbury's Becky Shute; an analysis from Professor Corinna Hawkes on how to maximise collective impact on healthier diets from sustainable food systems; and a debate on how to combat health inequalities linked to health and nutrition, featuring input from Walmart, Jerónimo Martins Colombia and Auto Mercado.
The event also featured a discussion on the future of seafood traceability with Metro AG, Whole Foods and the World Wildlife Fund; and a fireside chat with Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France director at The ONE Campaign, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease.
A series of Tech Talks took place during the Networking Breaks, with experts from Microsoft, Delterra and Bel Group sharing their insight.