Leading a sustainability initiative, the hard truth

01 Dec 2021
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David Taylor
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It's becoming increasingly urgent for brands to make progress against their sustainability commitments. Consumer and investor pressure has reached a fever pitch in the wake of COP26. Customers are voting with their feet and their dollars, with 64% of consumers being more likely to recommend sustainable businesses1 and 71% saying they'd pay more for responsibly sourced products1.

However, the uncomfortable truth for those leading sustainability initiatives within their organisation is that sustainability is hard. Really hard. And especially for supermarkets. Stocking everything from ready meals to toilet rolls means that the sustainable and responsible business issues you must address are incredibly diverse.

This complexity is only exacerbated by the fact that your core business systems were designed for the information your business knew it needed five years ago and not the evolving spectrum of sustainability data points. Your IT team may talk of building a "data lake" but, in the world of sustainability, it often feels like a drought. 

Furthermore, it isn't just down to you.

Within retail specifically, suppliers account for over 90% of a brand’s environmental and social impact2. And 81% of customers feel that supermarkets are responsible or partially responsible for the actions of their suppliers3. Therefore, by focusing on the suppliers, you can have up to 24 times as much impact as simply concentrating on your organisation's direct impact2. But to unlock this value, you must have an aligned and activated supply base.  

For decades, low levels of supplier engagement in brand sustainability initiatives have been systemic. A fact only compounded by supply and labour continuity issues brought about by COVID-19. The result is that, on average, only 25% of suppliers engage in sustainability projects4. This level of supplier engagement simply isn't good enough for you to achieve your brand’s commitments, nor the extent of climate action we all must take to keep global warming below 2 degrees and avoid disaster.

Book a discovery call with us, and we can show you show to:

  • Prioritise which issues your brand should tackle
  • Understand supplier awareness and activities around those issues to form realistic and achievable goals
  • Quickly and accurately benchmark supplier performance
  • Hold suppliers accountable at scale to the improvement commitments that they’ve made to you
  • Commercialise those improvements to turn your sustainability aspirations into business results

From there, you'll be able to break down vast and complex issues into practical, measurable and manageable steps, bucking the trend of systemically low supplier engagement of the retail industry. 

1Research by Nucleus Research (https://caterinasullivan.medium.com/how-much-more-are-consumers-willing-to-pay-for-sustainable-products-207539d4c8fd)

2Research by McKinsey (www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/starting-at-the-source-sustainability-in-supply-chains)

3Properitary research by S4RB in partnership with Vypr – the UK’s leading Product Intelligence Platform (www.vyprclients.com)

4Research by the Carbon Disclosure Project (www.cdp.net)

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