The Consumer Goods Forum Sustainable Retail Summit Review – Thursday

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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  • "A little less conversation, a little more action..." While Elvis Presley may have sung those words all the way back in 1968, as an opening theme for this year's The Consumer Goods Forum Sustainable Retail Summit, the sentiment couldn't have been more apt.

    Over the years, the Summit, and indeed The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) in general, has sought to act as a driver for positive actions – rather than just "conversation", as Presley himself put it – and given the growing concerns over the health of the planet, and the looming 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the time for talking is over.

    Impact At Scale

    In his opening address at this year's Sustainable Retail Summit, held in Amsterdam, CGF managing director Wai-Chan Chan said that it was imperative that those in the room could "find ways to accelerate what we do", and achieve "impact at scale", bringing more individuals, companies and geographies into its universe.

    The consumer landscape is changing rapidly, with various crises taking place simultaneously that are reshaping the retail and FMCG industry and leading to shifts in consumer values.

    In the first presentation of the day, Solitaire Townsend, chief solutionist and co-founder, Futerra outline what this means for the next generation of consumers with some stark facts – as well as being the 'honest generation', Generation Z consumers are increasingly becoming the 'anxious generation', with one in five young people feeling its too late to deal with climate change. This means that young people are 66% more fatalistic than the previous generation.


    "Gen Z are not going to be the ones that decide whether the future is sustainable," as Townsend put it. "The people in this room will."


    Embedding Health And Sustainability

    A discussion on embedding health and sustainability through the value chain featured three leading sustainability executives – Rebecca Marmot, chief sustainability officer, Unilever, Daniella Vega, senior vice president health & sustainability, Ahold Delhaize, and Florence Jeantet, chief sustainability officer, Danone, joined host Isabelle Kumar on stage to outline their role in changing how companies operate.

    As Vega explained, for CSOs it is important to be able to "zoom out'" and look at the interconnectivity between various issues, and then "zoom in to help customers make better choices". Jeantet echoed that sentiment, saying that the CSO "has a role across every department" in a forward-thinking organisation.

    This was followed by a discussion on how retailers and brands are collaborating to deliver solutions on the ground to improve the health of their consumers, which featured insight from Carrefour. PepsiCo, Alibaba, Aldi Sued and IGD.

    As Carrefour's CSR director for Scope 3 and supplier engagement, Nicolas Dhers, put it, firms should focus on achieving "food transition for all – and it's the 'for all' part that counts", encouraging those present to think beyond just offering healthy products, to "healthy and sustainable" products.


    When it comes to foods that are tasty, affordable, healthy and sustainable, "there can't be a trade off," added IGD's head of health and sustainable diets, Cathy Capelin, noting that consumers will expect products that meet all these criteria.


    Race To Zero

    Progress on the 'Race to Zero' was the topic of a panel discussion featuring input from EuroCommerce, Tesco, Accenture and WBCSD – World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and with COP27 just around the corner, it offered a timely update on the milestones achieved to date, as well as persistent issues.

    As Tesco group head of environment, Anna Turrell, put it, larger retailers have a responsibility to "lead the way, testing, learning – and failing occasionally", and act as an inspiring force for others that may be just starting on their Race to Zero journey. "We need to demonstrate the 'art of the possible'," as she put it.

    "There should not be a trade off between sustainability and profitability," added Oliver Wright, consumer goods and services, global lead at Accenture.

    Towards the end of the day, Bain & Company offered a few practical solutions for those in the room to make progress on their sustainability agenda – with the need to embed sustainable thinking inside businesses a virtual step forward.

    Keeping the musical theme from earlier, Bain partner Jenny Davis-Peccoud said that it is about "bass notes and high notes" – the former being the day-to-day efforts that companies make with regard to the ESG agenda, and the latter being "what you want to become famous for".

    As she added, within big organisations, "sustainability can bring purpose to people".

    The Next Generation

    Following a discussion on the importance of data in helping businesses to achieve their ESG goals – something that investors increasingly pay close attention to, noted International Sustainability Standards Board member Veronika Pountcheva – the day closed with a reminder that more needs to be done by retailers and brands to promote healthier products to young people.

    Building on their engaging presentation in Dublin at The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit in June, Bite Back 2030 took to the stage to assess the efforts that firms were making to ensure children's health isn't compromised by unhealthy products and associated marketing.

    "I want action to happen now," said Bite Back co-chair Christina Adane. "I keep being told 'be patient', but I don't want to be patient. I want to see more companies take responsibility for their junk food advertising."

    The day also saw insightful presentations examining ways to empower consumers to make a 'green transition', how firms can 'lead from the front' on human rights, and various engaging breakout sessions – not to mention some serious networking. Roll on Friday!

    © 2022 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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