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Environment: Retailers deliver on green promises

Environment: Retailers deliver on green promises

Shoppers in Europe are finding more green products on the shelves thanks to promises made by European retailers to promote more environmentally sustainable consumption patterns. A report monitoring the achievements of voluntary targets set by members of the European Retail Forum - a European Commission and Retail sector initiative - shows retailers are delivering on their commitments. As well as putting more sustainable products on supermarket shelves, retailers have also made progress in reducing their environmental footprint, paying particular attention to resource efficiency measures. Communicating with consumers on sustainability issues, however, is considered an area for improvement. The report recommends setting up an award scheme to reward best practice.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "This report shows that retailers are increasingly serious about their responsibilities towards the environment. Retailers are in a unique position to influence customers' choices and I am pleased to see there are more green products on the shelves. I congratulate retailers on their efforts to become more resource-efficient and reduce their environmental impact, but we are only just beginning."

Green commitments

Since the Retail Forum was launched in 2009, retailers have set themselves a series of individual and specific environmental actions that contribute to sustainable consumption and production. Energy efficiency in buildings and increase in sales of more sustainable products are the priority activity areas for retailers.
Some 280 environmental commitments have been made in three categories: what we sell, how we sell, and communication.

Monitoring of the first series of commitments for 2009 has revealed many examples of good practice. Visits made to stores in different Member States have shown that retailers are offering more green products to their customers. This includes expanded ranges of ecolabeled and organic products.

Sustainability in practice

Supermarket chain Carrefour has increased the number of own brand organic products by 83% compared to 2006 while Mercadona has achieved a 100% recovery rate for packaging waste in stores and distribution centres. Asda Wal*Mart reduced CO2 emissions from fleet transport by 40% of 2005 levels and Lidl achieved a reduction of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2009 simply by using shopping bags made from recycled materials. More examples can be found in the report.
Although a number of examples of good practice in communicating with consumers were highlighted, the report found this was an area where retailers could do more. The report also recommends setting up an award scheme to recognise good practice.

Retail Forum

The Retail Forum was launched in 2009 with the aim of generating a better understanding of the practical measures needed to promote sustainable consumption. Membership is open to all retailers who join the Retailers' Environmental Action Programme (REAP) and to civil society organisations wishing to contribute to its objectives.

In June, the retailers presented a voluntary environmental code of conduct for the sector. The Retail Environmental Sustainability Code focuses on the sustainable sourcing of specific products such as timber or fish, increased resource efficiency in stores, optimisation of transport and distribution, better waste management practices and improved communication to consumers. Signatories agree to report on their progress, for instance through their annual corporate sustainability report. Nineteen major retailers and 7 retail associations have already signed up to the code of conduct.

To read the report and find out more about the Retail Forum, visit:

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