The Heineken may have been flowing at the official dinner the night before, but delegates were in their seats at 8 a.m. sharp for the last day of The Consumer Goods Forum Sustainable Retail Summit 2022, which kicked off with a debate on plastics and the circular economy.
Always a hot topic at this annual meeting of ESG executives, the discussion was subtitled “Beyond Plastics Redesign.” It was presented by Willemijn Peeters, CEO and founder of Searious Business, and leading executives from ICA Group, Procter & Gamble Y Amcor.
As P&G’s Guillaume Lebert said at the Summit, his company “has used sustainability not as an add-on, but as a starting point,” adding that better communication is needed to ensure customers understand what companies are seeking to achieve. by switching to more sustainable solutions. packaging formats.
“You have to make things easy for them,” he said.
Amcor’s chief sustainability officer, Gerald Rebitzer, suggested that the ‘reuse’ aspect of the circular economy approach has almost receded in the last two years, saying that when he was a child in Germany, everyone used a beer bottle shape while today, there may be several hundred.
He also accused companies of “pilot washing” when it comes to circular economy initiatives, undertaking projects “that have no chance of scaling”, a practice that must be eradicated.
Collaboration for a healthier life
Next, Ahold Delhaize Executive Director Frans Muller, who also co-chairs the CGF Collaboration for Healthier Lives Coalition, spoke about the importance of empowering consumer choice, noting that access, affordability, convenience and education are important factors to consider when considering seeks to engage consumers with health and wellness messages.
“We strongly believe that change comes with collaboration,” he said. “In these difficult times, we have to stay strong and find solutions together.”
Following her presentation, Muller joined a panel discussion on the same topic, which also featured Ayla Ziz, Director of Customer Service, danone and Pablo Montoya Dávila, Director of Sustainability, Grupo Éxito. As the panelists agreed, while there is much talk about customer engagement at the head office level, local initiatives are the driving force in ensuring real change.
“The definition of health is ‘local,'” as Danone’s Ziz put it.
Next, a discussion on the need to incorporate both people and planet into sustainable thinking was the subject of a panel discussion with representatives from Coca-Cola, IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative and the Meridian Institute.
As Meridian Institute Director Mathew Jacobson noted, companies need to ensure that forest protection and human rights are connected, noting that “if we address deforestation without addressing the human element, we are going to fail.”
IDH’s Nienke Stam echoed this sentiment, arguing that alongside a “vertical approach to deforestation in your supply chain, a horizontal approach is also needed,” one that takes into account the impact of initiatives on communities and people.
From modern slavery to outer space
Following a group workshop on ‘designing your own regenerative ecosystem’, in which groups were tasked with developing their own circular economy concepts, the final segment of the day began with a discussion with Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, who he spoke of the greed for more government intervention in the fight against modern slavery.
As he explained, the lack of government intervention and “toothy” legislation means that while companies are making strides in tackling modern slavery, the problem persists and has even been accelerated by the pandemic.
“It’s up to governments, in combination with business and investors, to drive change,” he explained.
The day closed with a presentation by Angelo Vermeulen, a space systems researcher and biologist, who drew parallels between how NASA and the European Space Agency have been preparing for space travel from a food perspective and the current food industry challenges that we all face.
“Every molecule is valuable,” Vermeulen said of the “molecular sustainability” ecosystem designed to nurture humans in an extraterrestrial environment. “The space gives you an opportunity to assess how we relate to resources.”
It was a thought-provoking ending to a couple of days of in-depth discussion about the challenges we all face, and that are becoming more prevalent with each passing year.