The Sustainability Ecosystem

Text: The Sustainability Ecosystem

The network of sustainability is far-reaching when it comes to grocery: From source, to distributor, to grocer, to customer. Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability has remained high-priority in the mind of the consumer. However, the challenge of integrating a sustainable mindset with a business mindset persists: how can grocers drive ROI while still supporting sustainable practices?

In a recent webinar hosted by Progressive Grocer Editorial Director Mike Troy, industry leaders from Date Check Pro, Raley’s, and UNFI partner to share practical sustainability tactics and strategies that grocers can implement for both present change and future impact. Acknowledging the continuous challenge of remaining a sustainable business while considering financial realities, the speakers discuss how interconnected sustainability efforts need to be in order to achieve growth—both in environmental responsibility and ROI.

Parts of a Whole: Why Each Stop in the Food Supply Chain Matters

Webinar speakers include Andrew Hoeft, CEO & Founder of Date Check Pro; Chelsea Minor, Corporate Director, Public Affairs for Raley’s’; and Alisha Real, Director of Sustainability & Social Impact, UNFI. Involving representatives from a grocery software solution, a family-owned grocer, and a wholesale distributor speaks to the vital importance of each stop in the supply chain when it comes to sustainability. Holding the grocery industry accountable for eco-friendly practices starts at the top—and doesn’t stop until it reaches the consumer. 

Sustainability starts at the in-store operations level. Date Check Pro is an expiration date management software that provides grocers a simpler way to manage close-dated items and significantly reduce food waste. In the webinar, Hoeft suggests that promoting existing sustainability initiatives clearly to consumers will drive loyalty, just as efficiently managing expiration dates in order to focus on food waste prevention is the best way to mitigate both loss of revenue and loyalty. Focus on managing food waste not only saves money and prevents unnecessary loss, but discourages the chance of a customer finding or purchasing expired product—and significantly reduces food waste.

Beyond use of sustainability software in day-to-day operations, the grocery as a business has higher-level concerns to assess. Results from an upcoming study by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) of North America in partnership with Murphy Research suggest that the pandemic increased customer appreciation of supermarkets in communities—and now, consumers are “looking to local stores to demonstrate social and environmental leadership.” Making existing sustainability campaigns visible, being smart about sustainable sourcing and packaging, and supporting community nonprofits through efficient food waste management are all practices grocery retailers should keep top of mind. That being said, as Corporate Director, Public Affairs for Raley’s Chelsea Minor points out, “’s really important that this conversation goes beyond just [the] individual organization. We’re all a part of the solution.” 

At the wholesaler level of the ecosystem, distributors have a responsibility to do what’s right for people and for the planet. Director of Sustainability & Social Impact for UNFI Alisha Real spoke on the North American food wholesaler’s sustainability efforts, which prioritize shared value. “[With] food waste reduction and waste can see almost an immediate payback,” Real emphasizes. “Reducing shrink, reducing food waste: absolutely a win for the bottom line.”

Keeping Grocery Sustainability Efforts Integral

The keystone touched by all three speakers is that sustainability efforts must be integral for the highest level of success. “We’re all accountable for leaving the environment better than we found it,” Minor says of the teamwork required to solve a continuous problem like food waste. The network of sustainability is far-reaching: from distributor, to grocer, to customer. Slacking in one level disallows a well-rounded, wholesale fight for sustainability; and reduces ROI and efficient labor in the process. “It really does take a community to solve [the food waste] problem,” Hoeft says. “How can we solve waste end-to-end on the supply chain? Not just when it’s produced, when it’s transferred, when it’s in the stores, but even all the way down to the home level? That happens [through] collaboration.” Download the webinar 


More DCP Blogs on Sustainability in Grocery:

Brands Leading in Sustainable Packaging Innovation

How Healthy Foods Can Reflect Sustainable Practices

Grocery Stores & the Nonprofit: Steps to Tackling Food Waste & Insecurity

Making Sustainability Visible in Your Grocery Stores

Progressive Grocer & Date Check Pro webinar "How Grocers Can Drive ROI With Sustainability" features the following speakers:

Mike Troy, Editorial Director, Progressive Grocer

Andrew Hoeft, CEO & Founder,  Date Check Pro

Chelsea Minor, Corporate Director, Public Affairs, Raley’s

Alisha Real, Director, Sustainability & Social Impact, UNFIYour blog post content here…