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The big retailers going green

For the last 18 months or so, we’ve all been just a little distracted by you know what, so it’d be a fair assumption to suspect that the climate crisis may have fallen a few notches down consumers’ priority lists. But if that’s what you were thinking, think again – recent research by Mastercard and Ipsos suggests the opposite is true.

According to a report by Mastercard, almost three in five consumers (58%) said they are now more mindful of their impact on the environment since COVID-19, and 85% said they’re “willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability challenges in 2021”.

Kylie Brosnan, Public Affairs Director of Ipsos Australia, said the research giant’s surveys have revealed a strong anti-greenwashing sentiment from customers. “If the brand is not authentic and if the brand does not really deliver on what they promise to do, then consumers are pretty savvy and they’re pretty cynical – they’ll get hurt and they’ll back off.” 

So consumers are thinking green, and parts of the finance world seem to be as well. In a warning letter to CEOs at the end of last year, Larry Fink, Chairman of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock, cautioned businesses that BlackRock would begin voting against boards that are not actively improving their environmental and social governance, making investment capital more expensive. Dirty business? No cash for you.

So with that in mind, as an agency obsessed with retail we thought we’d give a quick overview of some of the big retailers actually walking the walk, and not just talking the talk.

Coles

Emissions are headed down (and staying down) at Coles. Earlier this year, Coles launched its ambitious new sustainability strategy ‘Together to Zero’ with the goal of becoming Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, committing to 100% renewable electricity by the end of June 2025.

To help lower energy consumption across its fleet, Coles is installing solar power at many stores, as well as night blinds on open refrigeration cases. Long term, Coles is working to decarbonise its direct supply chain to deliver net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Image credit: Coles
Image credit: Walmart

Walmart

Perhaps not the first retailer that comes to mind when you think of sustainability, Walmart is now aiming for all its stores to reach 100% renewable energy by 2035. On top of this, the big blue American behemoth has taken big steps to greening up its supply chain through Project Gigaton, which aims to remove one billion metric tonnes (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030 through improved supplier commitments.

Tesco

In addition to offering savings to customers who return their shopping bags, in 2017 Tesco became the first supermarket business globally to set a science-based climate change reduction target based on a 1.5-degree trajectory, which included a commitment to using 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Unlike many supermarkets, Tesco publishes its own food waste data annually, and has encouraged the wider food industry in the UK to adopt their ‘Target, Measure, Act’ framework.

Starbucks

Whether it’s coffee tables made from recycled coffee grounds, carbon neutral plates and cutlery, or their goal of 100% reusable or recyclable cups, the world’s largest coffee chain has been brewing up fresh ways to improve its eco-credentials. Plus, its coffee, tea and cocoa is all sourced responsibly – the brand works with farmers to help provide benefits to their businesses, their communities and the environment.

Image credit: Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry’s

A B Corp-certified brand, Ben & Jerry’s has been leading the way for years when it comes
to sustainability, and their initiatives are pretty sweet. One of their latest is Unfudge Our Future, a call to Australia’s leaders to create a cleaner, fairer future by embracing our opportunity to become a renewable superpower. Instead of just pointing out the problems, Ben & Jerry’s encourages its customers take action through things like petitions and handwritten letters to policymakers.

Importantly, Ben & Jerry’s practices what it preaches – the company has committed to 100% clean energy by 2025, and has invested in a massive bio-digester at their Hellendoorn factory in the Netherlands that turns waste from the manufacturing process into clean energy.

IKEA

Not only has the Swedish furniture giant committed to becoming climate positive and fully circular by 2030, IKEA has recently introduced over 30 global initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and help customers live more sustainably. On top of using FSC-certified or recycled timber, IKEA will soon offer a plant-based substitute of its classic meatball and introduce a world-leading furniture buy-back scheme.

When it comes to their Australian operations, IKEA plans for all its Aussie stores to run on 100% renewable energy and to only use electric vehicles for all operations and services by 2025.

If a global business as big as IKEA can pull off such an impressive eco-feat – and relatively quickly – there’s no reason why other big retailers won’t be inspired to do the same.

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