The consumer often has to choose between sustainability and performance, and companies win some consumers and lose some others.
“All our data indicate that this is the right strategy when there is a trade-off -- innovation that is able to eliminate the trade-off between sustainability and better performance,” says Ciserani.
Another panellist, Dominique Reiniche, president of Coca-Cola Europe, says her company recently released details of the carbon footprint of some of its most popular drinks.
Coca-Cola is working with the Carbon Trust to measure greenhouse gas emissions across the full lifecycle of selected drinks in a variety of packaging formats, “giving a more reliable and relevant picture to consumers,” says Reiniche.
“Against this backdrop, the need to foster more sustainable consumption and production is abundantly clear,” says Jivka Staneva, deputy head of the cabinet of the European Commissioner for consumer affairs. “We need an overall policy that will help consumers to act in a more sustainable way, while at the same time, promote energy efficiency and the competitiveness of European businesses. In times of economic and financial crises, both producers and retailers play a crucial role in helping to create sustainable consumption patterns in society.”
Staneva emphasised the importance of communicating the environmental benefits of products, taking responsibility for the products at the end of their life, and designing products with aspects such as durability in mind, in order to create sustainable consumption patterns. “This is the production and consumption cycle that can help consumers, producers and retailers alike, because all actors are looking to cut costs to be able to survive.”
The general consensus of the panel is that responsibility must be shared by all, a partnership in which all stakeholders are working towards the same goal, each through their own means. “While public authorities can provide incentives and a favourable framework for innovative actions, other stakeholders have an impact at different stages of the life-cycle of products,” says Staneva.
Reiniche adds she is “convinced that nothing can happen with one partner only. All stakeholders need to reinvent and tackle the immense challenges of rescuing the planet.”
For Goyens, the economic downturn should not be an excuse for not setting high goals. “Companies are innovative and creative, and they should use these assets to tackle sustainability.”
One also has to be open to partnerships. Stakeholders who are more knowledgeable need to bring their points of view to the table and from that dialogue will emerge solutions, he says.
“At the end of the day we are competing – we are competing in the sector, we are competing for consumer preference. When sustainability becomes part of the business agenda of companies, we also compete on that. Whatever Coca-Cola, P&G and Heineken are doing, that’s competing on who’s going to be the best in class, while making sense of our business,” says Boxmeer. “Competition is emulation and that is the best guarantee that sustainability will be serious and that it will be part of the business. It is not a fad but here to stay.”
Leave a Comment