5 Ways To Go Green and Drive Profits

I was at the Retail Week conference last week and was struck by the focus on climate and environmental issues. Andy Bond, the President and CEO of Asda, made a particular impression on me with his presentation linking “green action” with making money, debunking the myth that going green will drive higher business costs.

Andy introduced 5 themes, which I briefly cover below. Although Asda’s actions come from a retail perspective, I believe that their principles can be followed by any business.

  1. Get your house in order There are many simple things businesses can do to positively impact the environment and simultaneously lower cost. Examples include
    • Reduced energy consumption – paying greater attention to where energy is used and introducing simple actions to lower usage (eg low energy light bulbs)
    • Transport efficiency– for any business involved in the physical transport of goods, using transport more efficiently will make a significant dent in their carbon footprint. For example, filling returning lorries with recyclable waste will remove excess road journeys.
    • Reduced packaging – consumers are increasingly frustrated with excessive, non-recyclable packaging. The good news is that simpler packaging will cost less.
  2. Collaborate with suppliers Many of these simple actions need not be undertaken in isolation. By collaboration with suppliers issues such as transport efficiency and packaging reduction can be taken to the next level of improvement.
  3. Listen to customers By more closely listening to customers, companies can get ahead of the curve in managing the necessary change. For example, Andy set out his view that there will be a sea-change in the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables from all year round supply to local and seasonal supply (ensuring products are not “artificially” grown and that transport impacts are minimised). It will require great listening and early action by management to ensure that such changes do not have a negative impact on company performance.
  4. Empower colleagues This is, perhaps, one of the most productive elements of a sincere and lasting commitment to environmental issues. Engaging your people with the issues, and empowering them to take action can have a hugely beneficial impact on employee loyalty and churn. For example, Asda’s commitment to allowing colleagues to sponsor and sell an item in store has led to new environmentally-focused ranges, such as mineral water where profits go to developing wells for African villages
  5. Support the community Asda have put a lot of effort in designing more carbon efficient stores. Not only does this give them a positive message to customers, it gives them a much greater chance of obtaining planning approvals for new stores and growing their business.

Andy’s final underpinning thought was that successful implementation of a green agenda requires leadership and collaboration: leadership because the organisation and its stakeholders will only make such a sea-change in behaviour once they are convinced that the business leaders are serious; and collaboration because the prize is much bigger if people work together, rather than compete, wherever possible – although he wasn’t offering too much of an olive branch to Tesco!

The message from across the conference was clear. The time for debate is over, the time for real action has arrived. And rather than trying to intellectually decide whether companies and brands are sincerely engaged with green issues, customers will, in the end, look at actions rather than words.

What will your customers have to say about your company’s actions to reduce your carbon impact?


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