Saving money but wasting food

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The supermarkets are always offering us special offers – they might be multi buys or just reduced prices (sadly the multi buy is more common). Saving money in the current economic climate is a good thing, and as long as we don’t buy things just because they are a bargain (which is of course what the supermarkets want) we end up saving money.

20120505-160938.jpgMy issue however is with the deals that save us money but require the purchase of more items than we really want to achieve the saving. As an example at my local COOP they sell fresh rolls and similar ‘bake up’ products – their crusty rolls and French bread are excellent. But, due to their special deal it actually saves me money to buy 3 rolls rather than the 2 I actually want – so one gets binned!

Is this the act of a socially responsible supermarket? (and they are not alone in this – others are just as bad).

Convenience stores – heating and cooling

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We have a very good local store in my part of West Bridgford, I am not going to name it, but it is part of a large chain famous for its local stores. There has been a major refurb of the store in recent months and it now offers a very pleasant environment to shop in.

You get the idea....

As part of the refurbishment the fridge units have been replaced to the now very popular tall open fronted designs – great from the point of view of selling produce it would appear. But not good from another point – more on which below.

the fridge units occupy the entire rear wall of the shop and they have a return leg up one side, so they form a significant percentage of the walls of the shop. I am a regular visitor to the shop as it is great for those last minute items that you forget from the weekly shop. However, this weekend is the first vaugly warm weather since the refurbishment. On walking to the rear of the store I was amazed to find the air conditioning units in the ceiling pumping out hot air (it was warm outside). I assumed this must be a mistake and mentioned it to the manager.

His reply? “No I have to have it on, otherwise the fridges make it so cold down here that the shoppers complain”.

So here we have a totally refurbished shop from a chain that prides itself on being greener than most supermarkets and cooperating with the locals – but they have not considered the impact of the design of the shop on the green aspects. I hate to think how much electricity the airconditioner is using to heat the cooled corner of the shop.

A definite own goal – surely the shopfitters should be aware of these issues when they design stores?

That’s great Sainsbury’s – but you should be doing this anyway!

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I am not a big fan of the large supermarket chains – I believe they are responsible for a lot of the problems our town centres currently have, plus they don’t add anything to our community. Despite what they might want you to believe they are net takers not givers.

On a regular basis one or other of the big supermarket chains will go on a campaign to show their green credentials or how they support the local community – Sainsbury’s are this weeks candidate, they have announced Initiatives under the “20 by 20 sustainability plan” that will include driving down energy use in supermarkets, doubling the amount of British food sold from the current £4bn a year, increasing sales of fairly traded products to £1bn and making sure suppliers of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy goods follow higher welfare standards.

The company is also pledging to create 50,000 new jobs by 2020, by which point it expects 20,000 members of Sainsbury’s staff will have reached 20 years’ service.

The company, which has 21 million customers and almost 1,000 stores, says it is the most ambitious and far-reaching programme ever announced in the industry – which it may well be – but I can’t help thinking that much of what they are suggesting they should have been doing for years to support UK farming and communities?

Are we finally getting it?

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This week it has been announced that sales of Fairtrade goods have broken the £1bn barrier for the first time despite fears that recessionary pressures would persuade British consumers to put price before ethics.

Does this suggest that we are finally getting it?

The Growth in sales of bananas, chocolate, coffee (the most common Fair Trade items) and other products under the Fair Trade banner has climbed from £836m in 2009 to £1.17bn in 2010. So it would appear on first look that this is indeed the case.

Launching Fairtrade Fortnight, the organisation said that on a daily basis Britons now consume 9.3m cups of tea and 3.1m bananas stamped with its ethical mark. Fairtrade aims to support farmers and workers in the developing world by paying at least market prices for their produce. So it’s a good thing – no argument there. But is it social conscience or something else driving this?

In reality Fair Trade sales in Britain appear to have been boosted by the backing of the big retailers. In particular, Sainsbury’s, the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer, hopes to nearly double sales to £500m by 2015 while the Co-operative Group is increasing the number of Fairtrade product lines as part of a three-year ethical strategy (that I blogged about last week).

So perhaps the large supermarkets are finally beginning to ‘get it’? Let’s hope so – although the likes of Tesco and Asda still have a long way to go.

If the general public find Fair Trade as a regular item in their trolley this can only increase its acceptance – and perhaps finally make it ‘main stream’ rather than something purchased by others.

Here’s hoping!

Good bags v bad bags

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This is not going to be one of those self-righteous blogs about how we use too many free bags from supermarkets (although perhaps it should be).

Sainsbury's - rubbish!

No, this is grumpy blog from someone who hates Sainsbury’s vegetable bags! They are without doubt one of the hardest things to both remove from their ‘holder’ (a cardboard box if it hasn’t broken) and then open for use known to man!

My wife now grabs a handful and opens them so that I don’t ‘strop’ about them – although I do normally manage a little moan! No doubt Sainsbury’s would claim they are cheap – really, you amaze me!

Coop - brilliant!

Recently I dropped into our larger Coop in West Bridgford for some veg on the way home from work. The ease of obtaining and opening their bags was a revelation!

The bags come on a roll (clever) and fit into a proper dispenser (not a cheap cardboard box). Most importantly the dispenser has a device (a bit of plastic actually) that allows the bags to be ripped off easily – this also helps to open them.

Yes, they are probably more costly, but they show a level of customer care that is perhaps missing in some other stores?

Come on Sainsbury’s – get your act together or I am off to my local Coop!

Step up to the plate Sainsbury’s!

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I blogged recently about the large supermarkets and how their green credentials stacked up – not very well was the answer. Plus they are all being shown the way by the COOP who plan to push themselves further into ‘green’ over the next few years.

Now I am all for saving energy, we all know that turning down the thermostat and putting on an extra jumper is a start (turning the thermostat down by a degree cuts you annual heating bill by 10%).

sold by Sainsbury's?

But, it should be made easier to be energy-efficient. The Government make some efforts and have been fairly successful with their insulation programmes, and the feed in tariffs for renewables. It was only a matter of time before one of the big Supermarkets jumped on the band wagon – and it’s Sainsbury’s.

They have partnered with British Gas to provide a ‘one stop’ service. This will include; loft insulation, tailored home-energy assessments and – providing your roof points in the right direction – photovoltaic solar panels that allow you to benefit from the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

According to Sainsbury’s, installing average-sized solar panels of 1.4kw would save householders £600 a year. Furthermore, the supermarket claims that as the scheme only uses British Gas solar installers it negates the problem of so-called solar cowboys: independent, non-certified installers of dubious ability.

Now my issue is not with the idea of the scheme – anything that makes it easier to go green has to be good. My issue is with the provider, I realise Sainsbury’s are in it to make money – but surely they can put their own house in order at the same time?

Let’s see an end to free carrier bags, and a significant uptake in renewables on the stores.

Come on Sainsbury’s, put your money where your mouth is!

Green retailing – who stands head & shoulders above the rest?

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One of our larger clients at work is the COOP, they have been reinventing themselves over the last few years into a form more like their style from their past when they were local cooperatives. Their move back into the convenience market has been highly successful.

Likely to be a very important title....

In addition to this they have also been growing their green and ethical roots and are now one of the best supermarket operators from this standpoint. However it appears that they are not looking to stand still and are looking to become far greener.

They aim to cut carbon emissions by 35%, increase Fairtrade product lines and invest £1bn in green energy.

The Co-operative Group is launching an ethical operating plan that it hopes will set a benchmark for corporate responsibility on carbon reduction, fair trade and community involvement.

The group, which employs 120,000 staff, also plans to increase its membership from 6 million to 20 million and double its support for green energy to £1bn. In addition, it will increase its involvement with schools and create 2,000 apprenticeships in the next few years, as well as invest £5m a year to tackle poverty around its stores and branches. (They already help local clubs and charities far more than any other supermarket chain).

The recession represents a major opportunity for the Co-op to grow by trading on its ethical traditions. Their view is that trust in business has taken a real knock in recent years as the credit crunch has caused people to seriously question the capitalist model. The mutual is an alternative business model which chimes with the times. People want a business they can trust, with a strong sense of social responsibility. This is the COOP’s historical model.

The most ambitious target is to reduce the group’s operational carbon emissions by 35% by 2017, which the Co-op claims is the most progressive policy of any major business in Britain. It will also reduce the environmental impact of its packaging and continue to cut down on carrier bag use (you already have to ask for bags).

There are also plans to increase the number of Fairtrade product lines. The Co-op says that by 2020 it wants 90% of its developing-world primary commodities to be certified as Fairtrade. Always a pioneer of Fairtrade, The Co-operative’s commitment to ensuring that virtually all primary commodities that can be Fairtrade will be Fairtrade sets the bar anew for the corporate world.

This is all good news for both the shopper and the planet – hopefully the other supermarkets will follow suit?

Supermarkets – who are the good and bad environmentally ?

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Our Supermarkets have a huge hold over us in so many ways, so perhaps it’s not a bad place to start trying to be greener?

A number of them have been trying to tell us that they care for the environment – so who really does?

It takes more than bags to be green....

The Co-op and Marks & Spencer were this week named as the UK’s “greenest” supermarkets in a survey which rated retailers’ progress in areas such as sustainable and ethical sourcing.

Tesco, Asda and Netto were identified as the three worst performing companies – probably no surprise there!

The environmental and ethical performance of 19 of the country’s leading supermarkets and convenience stores were scrutinised in the survey, including detailed analysis of the companies’ corporate social responsibility reports.

The results reveal a clear divide between the top two performing supermarkets – the Co-op and M&S – and the other 17 companies.

Policies praised at these two major high street chains include the Co-op’s fish policy, whose goal is to operate its fish-sourcing policy in line with the aims and objectives of the Marine Stewardship Council. The Co-op also sources 98% renewable electricity in its 5,500 sites across the UK.

M&S was highly praised for its palm oil policies. It now stipulates the use of sustainable palm oil in many of its own-brand goods and is advised on the issue by WWF. M&S also scored well for its climate change policies which include a target of using non-crop derived biofuels in its fleet of vehicles.

If you’re lucky enough to live close to a local independent shop that has an ethical stocking policy then this ii my opinion is where you ought to shop. However the reality is that the vast majority of us now shop in supermarkets and therefore shoppers should choose either the Co-op or M&S if they value ‘green issues’.

These two companies have made genuine efforts to reduce the environmental and ethical impact of their operations and have demonstrated that they are setting the environmental agenda for supermarkets.

Now it is time for the others to follow and exceed these targets.