The call for corporate and social responsibility (CSR) covers a broad waterfront, as companies are increasingly measured by their ability to be good citizens, not just profit machines. Climate policies are sometimes seen as one of the toughest checkmarks on that list, but with a careful approach, retailers can not just satisfy growing pressure from stakeholders but also generate new value, according to a speaker Tuesday at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)’s supply chain conference, called LINK 2022.
One way to make progress on climate goals is to break them into a handful of bullet points, Henry Fovargue, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group, said in a session titled “Six climate priorities for retail leaders—and how to address them.”
Agriculture and raw materials can produce carbon from cattle digestion, but retailers like Walmart cut back on methane by working with farmers on specialized feed. Fuel and fleet sources may seem unavoidable, but Amazon has made huge strides in electric vehicles. Plastics in packaging create widespread pollution, but British retailer Tesco offers its own recycling service. Electricity and heat may seem beyond corporate control, but Ikea has built its own wind turbine fields. Refrigerant gasses create far more global warming than carbon dioxide, but Target has replaced those leaky systems with each new store remodel or DC refit. And food waste can pull the rug out from beneath all those other efforts, but Tesco trimmed the problem with a popular new line of “ugly vegetables” that would otherwise have been thrown away.
According to Fovargue, those success stories show that retailers can make climate progress if they leverage digital tools, embed sustainability into core business decisions, engage with suppliers, and find value in new places.