Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fit for a Sustainable Future

Day 2 of the Retail Week Conference kicked off with further discussion from Best Buy, Unilever and Argos.

However, it was a panel discussion about Corporate Social Responsibility that I was most intruiged by, particularly because of the companies involved. Jim Allaker (VP & General Manager of Nike UK & Ireland), Richard Gillies (Director of Plan A at M&S), Peter Marks (Chief Executive at The Co-operative Group), and David McCullough (Deputy Chief Executive of Oxfam GB).

The discussion began with how brands need to not lose focus of the strive for socially aware and sustainable production in the midst of a downturn. The Co-op is a brand that seems to lead the way in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).

Nike added that their new DNA is about sustainable performance and by 2011, all their shoes will have been made considering waste reduction, construction efficiency and using more environmentally friendly materials. I'm happy to see the importance Nike are now placing on CSR. Not bad for a company that for years seemed tainted with the reputation for turning a blind eye to appalling work ethics in their Asian production factories.

It wasn't until near the end that the "Clothes Exchange" between M&S's Plan A and Oxfam came up. 

I had already been aware of the campaign to reduce landfill waste, encouraging people to hand in their old, unwanted Marks and Spencer clothing to Oxfam in exchange for a £5 M&S voucher. I wasn't aware of it's success. 
Sir Stuart Rose has previously described the move as "a triple win - it's good for customers, good for people in developing countries and good for the environment." According to Richard Gillies, the success was also seen in M&S sales.


lynsey anderson said...

I think this is such a valid point for all major business areas to focus on, especially considering the effects of the so called 'credit-crunch'. It fills me with hope to realise that companies are still trying to strive for the essential realisation the sustainability is the way forward!I think it is escpecially rewarding to see the retail section, a major consumable area, as leading the way in keeping up the sustainability fight!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if nike will consider the end use of there trainers, that as each trainer is worn daily each user distributes a little more of the hamrful materials there shoes are made from into the environment, the deteroation process?

What Kat Did said...

I know Lynsey, you are right. However, as you can imagine, the issues took a little bit of a back-burner to the recession.
Another issue is that for a lot of consumers, buying the likes of fair trade or organic product has become less of a priority in their minds. Shoppers are now writing out shopping lists of the essentials and looking for bargains.

Oh I never realised this about Nike shoes. Please tell more? I wondered where the likes of Nike ID would fit into their master plan for CSR.