British supermarket chain, ASDA has learned a lot from its parent company, Walmart, to boost its sustainability ratings. Their CSR initiatives saw some serious financial pay-offs for the company. The company saved £70 million ($110 million) in 2010 because of its sustainability plans. By 2020, it hopes that its new goals will see a total saving of £800 million.
One of its most significant achievements includes eliminating 149,000 metric tons of carbon from its operations since 2007. This is a total reduction of 11.9 percent and it meets the company's target four years early. For the future, they want to maintain a 10 percent absolute carbon footprint and also reduce fresh-food waste by 10 percent by the end of 2015.
On the packaging side, their goals include a 10 percent reduction in carbon impact of their packaging by 2013. They also want all their palm oil sourced to be 100 percent sustainable by 2015. Finally, the company plans to boost their spending on local products to £500 million by the end of 2013. This ties in with Walmart's global plan to boost sustainable agriculture through local initiatives.
According to a recent survey by SustainAbility and GlobeScan, Walmart came in as the fourth most sustainable company. Eleven percent of respondents named the retail giant as a company that is “committed to sustainable development, seeing strategic advantage in pursuing policies and actions which go beyond the requirements of environmental and social legislation.”
According to them, ASDA has redirected more than 90 percent of its operational waste, including all food, cardboard and plastic. They also say that none of the ASDA stores send food to the landfill - leftover food is donated to charity whenever possible or transported back to the recycling center along with cardboard and plastic. Although 92 percent of ASDA's packaging is recyclable, local authorities are not able to collect it all, which means thousands of tons of packaging does still end up in the landfill. So now the company is working with the central government to encourage local authorities and provide the needed investment to make recycling more streamlined for customers. Ultimately the store wants to achieve a 'zero-waste' target not just within their stores but also their depots and offices by next year.
ASDA is also working with its customers to reduce food waste as part of their CSR. Currently, they are collaborating with the Food and Drink Federation and the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) to standardise its portion sizes, and is supporting the UK Government's ‘Love Food, Hate Waste' campaign.
Apart from all this, they support various charities. This year, for Christmas they want to collect toys to make the holidays brighter for children in need. Last Christmas they were able to collect 65,000 gifts and over £750,000. This year they want to ask each store to aim for a target of 200 gifts each making it a grand total of 100,000 gifts.
Through a mix of employee and customer engagement, ASDA is leading the way with its CSR in the UK and showing that sustainability initiatives can have financial impacts on a business.
Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net