MINNEAPOLIS — Implementing sustainability programs is a complex process requiring top-down leadership, according to panelists at Food Marketing Institute's Sustainability Summit here last week.The “Sustainability in Action” panel included representatives from Buehler Food Markets, Publix Super Markets, Supervalu, Hannaford Bros. and Giant Eagle, all of which are members of FMI's Sustainability Task Force.
Panelists stressed that sustainability efforts must start at the top of an organization. Senior-level executives within the company must be involved and must support all sustainability efforts, all of the retailers on the panel said.
Bob Garrity, vice president of environmental sustainability at Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, presented an image of the framework around sustainability efforts at the company, which starts with the definition of sustainability from FMI at the top, and incorporates the three pillars of sourcing, operations and customer-facing activities.
“The first plank under all those pillars is the senior management group — it is critically important to have senior management tied in,” he said. “We didn't necessarily have all the senior management tied in [at first], which made us have to go after opportunistic situations — and, by the way, fight every step of the way for each opportunity that we dealt with. Having that senior management tie-in puts it all together and is a very strong platform to build your house on.”
On the bottom as the foundation were tool kits and other resources, which is where the FMI Sustainability Starter Kit comes into play, Garrity added.
“We have had a lot of use out of the Starter Kit,” he said. “There are a lot of reference materials that have helped us, and it has been very useful to help us with a lot of things that we have been doing.
“We have done a lot, and we're quite proud of Giant Eagle and all that we have done, yet we also recognize that we're never near finished — it is a journey.”
All of the panelists stressed the importance of narrowing sustainability priorities by laying out short- and long-term goals at the start of implementing a sustainability program.
“We're working on our specific goals on our carbon footprint and waste reduction, and we're trying to have those short-term and long-term goals and make sure they're attainable,” said Tom McIntyre, senior manager, resource conservation and environmental stewardship at Supervalu. “We're building that green culture.”
Mary McMillen, director of consumer affairs, Buehler's, said the FMI Starter Kit “helped us hone what we wanted to do.”