Blog: Dean BestSainsbury's puts its sustainability work into spotlight

Dean Best | 21 November 2012

Think of the FMCG companies at the forefront driving sustainability across the sector and, often, the likes of Unilever or Marks and Spencer spring to mind. That may rankle at companies like Sainsbury's but today (21 November) the UK retailer seeks to emphasise the work it is doing on issues from Fairtrade to the environment.

M&S's Plan A CSR programme arguably has broader recognition among UK consumers but rival retailer Sainsbury's has its own set of initiatives, launched last year, and in London this morning it will provide an update on its progress.

Sainsbury's unveiled its 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan last October, a programme that sets out 20 targets for the retailer to achieve by 2020, such as doubling the amount of British food it sells, reducing carbon emissions by 65% compared to 2005 levels and increasing sales of ethical products by GBP1bn.

The retailer has managed to withstand the downturn in the UK (last week, it reported its share of the country's grocery market had reached its highest level for a decade) and chief executive Justin King often insists consumers are attracted to its "values" on issues such as sourcing, health and the environment (alongside price and location of stores, no doubt).

King and the senior Sainsbury's team will report how the retailer has fared so far against its 20 by 20 targets.

Property director Neil Sachdev is also responsible for Sainsbury's environmental strategy and last week, at the retailer's presentation of its half-year results, he told just-food the company wanted to use the event to listen, not just report.

"We're going to ask people to tell us what more they think we should be doing. We could stick presentations up but most of that is publicised and will be in our report anyway. This is about hearing back from people and saying: 'What's the next stage we should be going to? How much more is there we should be looking at? And what is it that we shouldn't even bother with as maybe there isn't value in there?," he said. "We want to turn more into searching out more information as well."

Of course, that could intensify the scrutiny of what Sainsbury's has done and plans to do but at least the retailer seems open to dialogue.

In any case, the event, which just-food is attending, will also, no doubt, be a chance for Sainsbury's to emphasise the work it is doing and try to share some of the plaudits from NGOs, campaigners and the public with Unilever and M&S - and, crucially, shout more to these values-chasing consumers it insists are out there of the work it is doing.


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