Improving sustainability in retail

The world may be very different to how it was at the start of the year, globally we have had to change how we live, interact and socialise. However, even during these new times, we have still needed to visit grocery stores to buy supplies for our families and we should still be looking to make a sustainable choice to minimise our global impact.

That said, we consumers are not the only ones who can make changes to minimise our negative impact on the planet. Grocery stores should, and are, making significant adjustments to their businesses in order to lessen their mark on the planet.

Being a sustainable retailer is not without its challenge, and stores are definitely faced with a significant mountain to climb. Food waste is the 3rd largest contributor to global green-house gas emissions, and in the US, is the single largest contributor to landfills. In 2019 the US Department of Agriculture estimated that 31% of the food supply (Stores/restaurants) ended up in landfill. Additionally, historically, retailers are largely responsible for distributing plastic bags – did you know that an estimate 160,000 plastic bags are used around the world, every second! We all know the challenges these and other non-recyclable packaging causes for the environment.

Although these are only two reasons, they are, to our mind, pretty compelling and add to the pressure on grocery stores to change. Fortunately, many grocery stores and chains are making adjustments, even through these uncertain times, to ensure they are eliminating their negative environmental impact.

In this article we have put together 5 (+1) ways grocery stores are working hard on lessening their environmental impact.

1.    Banning Single-Use Grocery Bags

Back in 2018, which now feels about 18 years ago and not 18 months, single-use was the word of the year! When it comes to single-use plastics, grocery bags are arguably the most pervasive problem.

As it continues to be a point in the public’s consciousness More and more grocery stores are taking notice of their role in this problem, and many of them are ditching the single-use plastic and encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags. In Australia, when the two largest grocery stores issued a ban on plastic bags, they saw circulation drop by 80 percent (or roughly 1.5 fewer bags) in the first few months.

2.    Make Recycling Easier

One big deterrent for many people who aren’t recycling is that, for beginners, sometimes it’s just not that simple. The numbers on plastic, for example, can confuse people, which leads to more plastic in the landfill. Fortunately, there are solutions: In the US How2Recycle is a standardised labelling system that makes it easier for people to recycle by clearly stating how that item should be recycled. They’ve already teamed up with many food companies — such as Amy’s, Nestlé, and General Mills — and now, they’ve partnered with grocers such as Target, Walmart, and ALDI so that they’re in-house products will have clear directions on how to recycle.

3.    Selling Discounted Produce

One of the most popular — and most interesting — trends to take off in the past year is selling imperfect, nearing-expiration, or otherwise flawed fresh produce at a discount. Many supermarkets have taken to creating their own boxes — such as Lidl’s “too good to waste” box.

At Whywaste we also aim to make this process easier, by using our Semafor system, grocery stores are able to push discounted produces, that may be going to waste, to a consumer facing platform; such as Karma, Olio or Plant Jammer. This is a win-win solution, not only is food waste prevented, retail staff can make an active decision on the prevention and the consumers can get fresh produce at a discount.

4.    Better Sell-by Dates

The Grocery Manufacturers Association claims that, currently, nine out of 10 grocery products could have better “use-by” and “sell-by” dates. They believe this has the potential to help tremendously with food waste, as many consumers are relying on “if in doubt, throw it out” — causing a lot of food to enter the landfill long before it expired. Maybe casting forward a little. By using technology, like Mimica's Touch or by managing Sell-by dates and subsequent data more effectively with Whywaste's Semafor - these dates, designed to protect health can become a powerful tool in waste prevention too.

5.    Embracing Technology to Make Change

These final three points can be combined together to make real sustainable changes. Many Grocery stores have introduced discount boxes and are taking some little steps. However, and yes, we are bit bias, Whywaste thoroughly believe that real systemic change can only be made by embracing technology and solutions to reduce environmental impact.

Whywaste have built exceptionally user-friendly systems that help grocery stores to manage their environmental impact through improving in-store processes when it comes to date checking. This allows for better control of sell-by dates in store, allows for pushed notifications to discounters, reduction printers or charity partners and allows for intelligent purchasing choices based on data.

This article just scrapes the surface of the action’s grocery stores can take to lessen their environmental impact. We will try and champion as many as possible when we hear of something new, make sure you check Whywaste’s social media for updates here.

Whywaste are committed to continuing development of solutions designed to work seamlessly with all retailers across the globe. If you are reading this as a retailer and would like to discuss more on our products, please do get in touch