When you consider a business like Whole Foods, the connection between customer engagement and sustainability is obvious, because the company has established a firm identity in conservation and related issues — and when it forgets, alert customers will remind it. The challenge for a more mainstream supermarket like Albertsons is to bring conservation and recycling topics home to a clientele that may be too caught up in the rush of daily life to press for changes. The reward, though, is to reach a large cross-section of the population that may not otherwise cross paths with a well planned, focused sustainability effort. Albertson’s has some ambitious zero waste plans for this fiscal year that promise to make corporate social responsibility part and parcel of one of life’s most ordinary routines, the trip to the supermarket.
Albertsons, Zero Waste and Food Banks
Albertsons, which is a division of SUPERVALU, already tested the waters of zero waste with two of its Albertsons stores in Santa Barbara. The new plans include adding another 40 more by the time its fiscal year ends in February 2012. Although to SUPERVALU a zero is not necessarily a zero – the stores only have to achieve 90 percent to qualify for “zero waste” – it’s still a good goal. Of particular interest is the company’s existing engagement with food bank donations in order to reach that goal. SUPERVALU already has a strong track record in that regard, with about 60 million pounds donated through its Fresh Rescue program last year.
Engaging the Unengaged
One glance at an Albertsons weekly flyer is enough to tell you that the customer base is still shopping in pre-conservation mode, but that provides even more value to the company’s CSR efforts. Reaching out to new audiences can be, and should be, a primary goal, and that’s where companies selling “non-sustainable” products can have the greatest effect. That goes for services and activities, too, especially those in which sustainability would seem to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. One great example is the world of auto racing, where California’s Infineon Raceway is bringing sustainability concepts to thousands of racing fans. Another example is the U.S. military. Among many other sustainability programs, the Army’s Net Zero Vision for military bases is going to impact hundreds of thousands of military personnel, their families, and their communities.
SUPERVALU and CSR
SUPERVALU may have a long way to go in some areas, but its latest CSR report (caution, big file) indicates a key strength, and that is its community partnerships. Aside from the Fresh Rescue program, the two Albertsons partnered with the City of Santa Barbara in a joint organic waste composting program. The report also underscores the profitability potentials for a well planned waste reduction effort, with a combination of recycling revenues and avoided waste disposal costs.
Image Credit: Albertsons store flyer by Hotcouponworld.com on flickr.com.
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