The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow shone the spotlight even more brightly on perhaps the biggest issue of our age: reversing the trends of global warming.
In Glasgow, the world’s political leaders took center stage. But every day, the people and businesses that make the economy run are working on solutions to lower their carbon footprint, reduce waste and help the Earth in other ways.
Everyone plays a role, and supermarkets can play a leading one, setting the tone for shoppers, suppliers and others along the supply chain, said Karen Reed, global director of marketing and communications for Yakima, Wash.-based Kwik Lok Corp., the global leader in package closures.
“Retail grocers have tremendous relationships with consumers and can help educate them regarding the products in the marketplace,” she said. “Some items may appear to be environmentally-friendly but, when you evaluate the carbon impacts, they may actually not be in alignment with sustainability values of both the retailer and the consumer.”
Supermarkets are already doing a lot when it comes to sustainability, said Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain and sustainability for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.
“We’re seeing more initiatives being implemented by retail grocers as well as more requiring information from their suppliers on their practices,” he said. “Some require third party audits, others only require self-audits or questionnaires.”
Retailers who want to do even more, Treacy said, would do well to consider these three actions:
- Adopt and endorse the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices;
- Set reasonable goals and requirements of their suppliers; and
- Accept only sustainability audits that are benchmarked to the new Consumer Goods Forum Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) benchmark, which is similar to the GFSI benchmark for food safety audits.
“Becoming more sustainable should be viewed as a journey of continuous improvement,” Treacy said.
Kwik Lok is actively working with other brands to find solutions that meet the needs of retailers and consumers globally. For instance, the company is developing materials innovations both on its own and in collaboration with others.
“We’re also working to help educate retailers about different materials and how they align with their values,” Reed said.
In addition, Kwik Lok is looking at its own operations and adopting corporate responsibility goals that contribute to a better planet. One of the company’s goals is to help its customers select more sustainable closure solutions from its growing portfolio of options.
In it together
The Glasgow conference, Reed said, illustrated the huge need for global collaboration.
“We all have a part to play in reducing carbon and we must make it a priority,” she said.
Retailers, in partnership with their suppliers, can contribute to a more sustainable future. Here are several things to keep in mind:
- Packaging and sustainability can go together. Kwik Lok’s Eco-Lok closures, for instance, are made with up to 20% less fossil fuel-based resin and 20% less greenhouse gases to manufacture. What does that mean to retailers and consumers? Less fossil fuel, lower carbon footprint, less food waste.
- Get involved with the U.S. Plastics Pact. The organization’s “Roadmap to 2025” is a great tool to help companies change the way they look at sustainability-related problems.
- Cast a wide net. It’s crucial that all players along the supply chain work together to come up with sustainability solutions. Grocery retailers have a critical position in the marketplace. They can educate their consumers — not just about what they buy, but about recycling and other sustainability initiatives in their communities. They can also push their suppliers to align with their sustainability efforts, and they can hold them accountable about following through on them.
- Waste not. Reducing food waste should be a key component of any company’s sustainability program. Opening and tampering with bread in the grocery store, for instance, is a major culprit. Solutions like Kwik Lok’s 909A Bag Closing Machine is one solution. The 909A provides a uniform laser stitch that indicates whether a bag has been opened. Bags do not tear and can easily be re-closed with a Kwik Lok closure.
As they pursue their sustainability goals, retailers and their suppliers can take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone. Many industry resources are available to help them, including: