Retail Foodservice

What Does Your Eco-Footprint Say About Your Brand?

Grocers can take cues from restaurants that have focused on improving their environmental practices

Sustainability is on the minds of consumers and operators alike, new studies show.

In a 2017 study, Unilever found that 33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands that they think are doing environmental or social good. Another study, the Eco Pulse special report from the Shelton Group, reports that 88% of people agree the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce her or his environmental footprint, and 78% say they feel at least moderately responsible to change daily purchase habits and practices to positively impact the environment.

In that same study, 65% of respondents said a company’s environmental reputation has a moderate to very strong impact on their decisions on whether or not to buy their products.

Several grocers have taken steps to improve the sustainability of their operations, from efforts to reduce food waste to the embrace of more sustainable packaging, among other moves:

  • Wegmans recently expanded its new Zero Waste Program to more stores and will continue to roll out the initiative, with a stated goal of “eliminating all forms of waste at its stores, with food waste front and center.”
  • Walmart has announced it is ramping up efforts to reduce greenhouses gas emissions from its operations, building on its 20 million ton reduction.
  • Sprouts Farmers Markets recently won Grocery Stewardship Certification from the nonprofit organization Manomet, lowering its environmental impact and reducing its use of resources.
  • Weis Markets has continued to focus on sustainability efforts even as the chain expands, announcing that it has reduced its carbon footprint in existing stories by 25.4%. Among other steps, Weis has bolstered its recycling, expanded its use of energy-efficient vehicles, designed stores that have received LEED Silver Certification and expanded its programs to reduce food waste.

On the foodservice side of the business, grocers can take cues from restaurant operators that have focused on improving their environmental practices. The recently released State of Restaurant Sustainability 2018 report from the National Restaurant Association reveals that energy-saving equipment and practices are pivotal, with eight in 10 restaurant operators reporting that they use energy-efficient lighting; six in 10 saying they use programmable heating, ventilation and air conditioning thermostats; and more than four in 10 indicating that they use Energy Star-rated refrigerators, freezers and ice makers.

Like grocery operators, restaurant operators have honed in on food waste as an issue to tackle to better the environment. About half of restaurant operators said in the study that they track the amount of food waste their restaurant generates. About one in five operators say they donate edible leftovers to local charitable organizations.

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