Selling irregular-shaped fruit, composting organic waste, raising bottle deposit costs, incentivizing employees to carpool. Businesses across industries are looking for greener policies and solutions, not only to improve their image, but mostly to save costs
By Anna Rzhevkina
With the growing awareness of environmental issues among consumers, companies have more pressure to go green. According to the recent GlobalData survey, over 70 percent of consumers take into consideration environmental impact, while they do grocery shopping, and slightly less – about 64 percent – when it comes to clothing and footwear. Climate change warning issued by UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October accelerated the trend. Nearly three-quarters of Poles are concerned about climate change, and about half of the country’s population believes that climate change results mainly from human activity, European Investment Bank (EIB) reported. All of the above makes sustainable solutions in business rather a necessity than a choice.
The firms often see being environmentally friendly as high extra costs, and there are grounds for such perception. For example, Starbucks made the headlines by offering a $10 million grant for a cup that’s easier to recycle. Still, some major companies operating in Poland proved that being environmentally friendly may come at low costs or even generate extra profit. “Wasting becomes more and more expensive and less acceptable,” Bolesław Rok, a professor at Kozminski University (Warsaw) said in an interview with the Polish NGO Responsible Business Forum. Circular economy, aiming to minimize resource input, waste, emissions, and energy leakage, will be one of the key buzzwords in 2018, he added.
Cutting CO2 emissions by motivating people to return beer bottles, carpooling for employees and other creative ideas, presented in the “Responsible business in Poland. Good practices” report, help the business to stand out and increase customer loyalty.
Zero waste target
British supermarket chain Tesco introduced new “Perfectly Imperfect” range of “wonky” fruit and vegetables. At lower prices the consumers can buy products of irregular shape, which earlier did not meet the standards. The retailer started with parsnips and potatoes and then extended the range to cucumbers, apples and many other popular fruit and vegetables. Last year “Perfectly Imperfect” frozen berries appeared on Tesco shelves. “Whilst visual appearance is still important for many customers we know that it is taste that’s really important, at great value prices,” the company said. It added that millions of portions have been saved from going to waste.
Carrefour Polska came up with another way to contribute to waste reduction. The retailer transfers organic waste to local composting plants that recycle it for agricultural purposes. Carrefour plans recycling 100 percent of the waste from hypermarkets until 2025. In addition, the company committed to reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2025 and by 70 percent by 2050, compared to 2010 level. To achieve that, the retailer installed the system for monitoring electricity consumption in its stores. French Leroy Merlin also went for energy-efficient solutions by switching to LED lighting in the stores. The energy consumption in shops illuminated with LED lighting will be 40 percent lower compared to the old solutions, the company calculated.
Incentives to reduce CO2
Polish beer producer Grupa Żywiec contributed to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions by lifting the deposit for returnable bottles to PLN 0.50 from PLN 0.35. During the first three-four months about 20 million more bottles were returned thanks to this initiative. As a result, the use of glass declined by 6,500 tons and CO2 emissions fell by 5,500 tons. At the same time, more returned packages helped the company to react faster to consumers’ needs, especially during the high beer consumption season.
Chocolate producer Wawel motivated employees to reduce CO2 print through carpooling – sharing cars on the way to work and back home. The company launched a platform for those willing to take part in the campaign under the slogan “A good ride in good company is a successful beginning of the day!” A person who drives the most people during a month, will receive “the best” parking slot, Wawel promised. During half a year until January 2018, there were more than a thousand shared rides for an average of four people.
Finally, logistics operator DB Schenker has been providing its clients with an eco-calculator – a tool for evaluating CO2 emission, and comparing it for various transport solutions.
Small steps do matter
Tacking climate change requires fundamental changes in the Polish economy, but even micro steps have value, considering the time pressure. “At the moment we are paying for what was done in 1970s and later. Even if we stop emissions now, the climate situation will continue to worsen over several or several dozen years,” a professor of the University of Warsaw, Szymon P. Malinowski said.
The companies’ attention to sustainability and a number of green initiatives are growing in Poland. However, while the energy remains cheap, some crucial actions are still missing. For example, still few companies decide to improve building insulation or eliminate energy leaks in warehouses, Malinowski pointed out.