CHICAGO -- As the U.S. economy improves, pressure applied to the food industry from environmental groups is likely to intensify, Christian Haub, president of A&P, Montvale, N.J., said here last week "A major decision for American companies is to acknowledge that 'green' is the right approach to take," Haub declared during the Food Marketing Institute Speaks presentation here at last week's annual convention. "We as an industry must come to the conclusion that we always have to consider the environmental impact of all our economic decisions.
"Therefore, we have to effectively incorporate environmental-impact thinking into the decision-making process."
According to FMI's 1994 Trends survey, environmental concerns among consumers have declined slightly over the past year, Haub noted:
69% of respondents said store environmental programs influence where they shop, down from 72% last year.
49% said they refuse to buy products from companies whose policies they disagree with, down from 53% last year.
51% said they look for products with recyclable packaging, compared with 59% last year.
According to Haub, "Those
slight declines will be reversed and then some as the economy improves, and I fully expect environmental pressures to return, no doubt at double the intensity of five years ago.
"Therefore, it would be strategically wise to prepare now and not wait until the impact is felt."
Michael Sansolo, FMI's group vice president and moderator of the Speaks presentation, also underlined the importance of environmental concerns.
"Green will not go away, either in marketing or in governmental regulation," he cautioned.
Haub said the day-to-day contact food retailers have with consumers gives them "an enormous responsibility to influence and educate the public.
"At A&P we want to become a leader and go beyond regulatory compliance," he declared.
"We know that no matter what we do, someone will criticize us or even attack us for not doing enough. But it is a great deal better to accept the responsibility and to do something for the environment."
A&P has incorporated environmental concerns into its decisions since the early 1980s, Haub said, when it began introducing computerized energy conservation programs in all stores. Those programs have conserved nearly 700 million kilowatt-hours of energy over the past three years, he noted.
A&P also is replacing chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants "with the best environmentally acceptable alternatives currently available," Haub added. The chain converted 133 stores last year to alternative refrigerants and has 300 more stores scheduled for similar conversions this year, he said.