The push for the food retail industry to go “green” isn’t new. The idea of a sustainable grocery store has been around for years; however, as new technology has been introduced and consumers’ influence on brands has increased, the definition of what it means to be a sustainable grocery store has also changed.
For many grocery retailers, ESG is now a significant part of their strategies. A primary way to show their customers they prioritize health, sustainability, and the environment is by reducing food waste and spoilage across the supply chain. This blog will explore what it means to be a sustainable grocery store and examine how technology and people can influence a grocery retailer’s sustainability strategy to meet their unique ESG targets.
What is ESG?
While ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is a framework used to evaluate a company’s sustainability and ethical impact. The “E” in ESG refers to the environmental impact of a company’s operations, including its carbon footprint, use of resources, and waste management practices. The “S” refers to a company’s social impact, including how it treats its employees, customers, and communities, as well as its impact on human rights and social justice. The “G” refers to a company’s governance practices, including the composition of its board, executive compensation, and transparency in reporting.
What is a sustainable grocery store, and why does it matter?
According to IDC, an international market intelligence provider, customer demands are a top motivating factor for adopting more sustainable practices. A sustainable grocery store is a store that operates in a way that minimizes harm to the environment. A sustainable grocery store aims to promote a more environmentally friendly way of life and reduce the overall impact of grocery shopping on the environment. In fact, according to a NielsenIQ Global Health and Wellness Survey, 30% of participants are more likely to purchase products with sustainable credentials.
Using Technology to Reduce Food Waste
Food retailers generate 10.5 million tons of food waste, sending almost one-third of wasted food to landfills. Approximately 45% of all fruits and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, and 20% of meat and dairy products are wasted annually by suppliers, retailers, and consumers.
Technology is crucial in helping the grocery industry reduce those numbers. Platform solutions help minimize waste during preparation processes and identify losses in real-time to address the root cause.
By using real-time data on sales patterns and product popularity, stores can make more informed decisions about what to stock and when to order new products. Real-time data also helps grocery stores monitor product temperature, humidity, and shelf life. This allows them to identify items at risk of spoilage and adjust inventory levels accordingly.
Artificial intelligence is also helping to make the grocery industry more sustainable. For example, AI-powered systems can allow stores to optimize their operations and make more informed inventory management and energy usage decisions. Grocery stores can reduce waste and improve profitability by reducing overstocking and improving demand forecasting.
Food Traceability and Sustainable Credentials
Food traceability also significantly impacts grocery store ESG (environmental, social, and governance) targets. Food traceability refers to the ability to track a food product’s journey from farm to plate. This includes information about the origin of the ingredients, the production process, and the distribution and storage of the product.
Food traceability enables grocery retailers to track contaminated products, identify hotspots, and pinpoint where a product was spoiled in seconds. This information can help ensure that the product doesn’t end up on shelves and that no more products from an identified hotspot are purchased.
By tracking the origin of food products, grocery stores can also ensure that they are not sourcing products from suppliers that engage in unethical practices, such as using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
From the consumer perspective, leveraging these processes shows that you prioritize your customer’s health, are committed to reducing waste, and do your part as a retailer to make this a more sustainable planet.
Employees play a significant role
Grocery store employees also play a critical role in creating a sustainable grocery store. They are the front-line ambassadors for the store’s commitment to sustainability and can directly impact the store’s ability to achieve its sustainability goals.
First and foremost, grocery store employees can educate customers about the store’s sustainability initiatives and encourage them to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviors, such as using reusable bags or choosing products packaged in recyclable materials.
Employees can also help to implement waste reduction strategies, such as reducing food waste by monitoring expiration dates, using efficient lighting and energy systems, and recycling and composting waste materials. If you are using software to monitor these things, selecting software that is easy to use and train employees is essential. This also can help with retention. Employees are your biggest asset.
By advocating for sustainable sourcing practices, grocery store employees can help to ensure that the store is sourcing products from suppliers that are food safe compliant, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible. Store employees can also support ethical governance by ensuring that the store follows all relevant laws and regulations and reports any unethical practices to the appropriate authorities.
The Future of Sustainability
Sustainability is a crucial feature of the grocery industry, as it helps reduce waste, save resources, and improve the environmental impact of food production and distribution. The Future of sustainability in the grocery industry will continue to evolve and will likely be shaped by several trends, including technology, consumer preferences, and environmental concerns. Ultimately, becoming a sustainable grocery store is essential for reducing the industry’s environmental impact, attracting and retaining customers, saving costs, improving reputation, and complying with regulations. By adopting sustainable practices, grocery stores can demonstrate their commitment to ethical and responsible business practices while improving their profitability and competitiveness in the market.