The grocer grossed…

Dick SearleI really like the thrust of the recent Sainsbury £1 billion sustainability ’20 by 20′ strategy. How could I not? It kicks off brightly and confidently with material from Anna Ford (chair of the company’s corporate responsibility committee) and a strong statement from CEO Justin King.

The Sainsbury’s plan is well researched and closely argued. It chimes perfectly with the company’s modest yet strong corporate identity. As a UK citizen, it gives me confidence that one of our leading high street companies is applying so much care, vision and common sense to its sustainable future and to important global issues such as the environment.

And, heck, the new document doesn’t even get to the packaging topic until point 12 (out of 20) in the grand scheme of things.

But to read the subsequent media coverage and reportage of the Sainsburys you might very much think otherwise: The packaging issue manages to make it into the first two paragraphs of most news reports, if not the intro paragraph in every story.

I’m thinking that if Justin King, Ken Morrison or Philip Clarke were in it just for laughs, they may as well wear a checkout bag or a vegetable sack over their heads every time they stepped forward for the media.

Never mind the serious issues of fair trade, deforestation, farming, fisheries, animal welfare, nutrition, fossil fuels, carbon footprint and other important topics that have priority space in this new document. Those things can continue to take a rest while the focus moves back again to packaging.

So let’s get this right – one more time.

  • Packaging is a net environmental benefit: It saves much more waste than it produces
  • Packaging conserves the resources and products that society wants
  • Packaging offers shoppers choice – variety of goods and variety of types of goods (brands) – all day, every day.

Let me assure you that having an issue with consumers, consumption, or with ‘what society wants’, or with the variety and choice of products that society currently enjoys will not be solved by scapegoating packaging.

On the contrary. Take a good look into emerging country marketplaces and the wasteage there. Check on the effectiveness of delivery systems in our own supply chains for measureable and science-based answers.

As the Sainsburys ’20 to 20′ document makes abundantly clear; our leading supermarkets are a vital and central plank of our economy, and contribute greatly to its health. I fail to see how we do these businesses real justice by continually pointing to the usual totemic scapegoat.

Thanks again

Dick Searle