Sustainable What?
Written by Steven T. Cua   
Friday, 10 March 2006
A new trend in retailing worldwide has to do with Sustainable Development. Sustainable what? Sustainable Development pertains to economic development with an eye for the sustainability of our environment. It keeps an eye on the ecological balance of one’s neighborhood resulting to the total good of one’s city and the standard of life in that community. It is also known as Environmental Sustainability.

A shift towards environmental sustainability for a supermarket operator is not a shift away from productivity and profitability. No store will want to espouse this noble cause if it will eat into a shop’s bottom line.

Wal-Mart, world’s biggest retailer and company, had an annual turn-over of US$285.2 billion (a staggering P 14,260,000,000,000.00 for those who have calculators which carry this much digits!) last year. How big is this? Duh, it translates into the fifth largest city in the U.S. in terms of output; the 20th largest country in the world!

For all its heft, Wal-Mart can try its hand in promoting different trends and the challengers of this super retailer will follow suit. However, this giant store chain decided to go green and recently launched a supercentre in McKinney, Texas that experiments with materials, technology and processes to reduce energy, recycle waste and cut back on greenhouse-gas emissions. What? What’s all these highfalutin stuff got to do with me? I’m just a simple supermarket operator efficiently servicing my valued customers.

Whether you are an efficient (or inefficient) supermarket retailer, it is eventually everyone’s concern to do his share in preserving our environment. After all, we live in one same world. So, how do we do this? We are no Wal-Mart or anywhere near one of the sales of one of its 5,400 outlets. We can contribute to this cause by simply using our lights, air-conditioners and other equipment efficiently. This saves us from the debilitating effects of heavy energy costs as well. We can dispose of our wastes properly. Not by just sorting them but also collecting them in biodegradable bags. We can send email and save on paper. We can maintain our fleet of delivery vehicles more efficiently to lessen fumes in the air. The list is endless if one is creative and to top it all, it gives us a bottom line we can smile about.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently held a 2-day Seminar Workshop for Philippine retailers exactly for this purpose. At the World Summit in 2002, the UNEP has identified retailers worldwide as the medium to propagate Sustainable Development. How so? They figured that retailers meet on a daily basis, suppliers on one end and the consumers on the other. They think that retailers can be an effective vehicle in promoting sustainability. We can do things in our own stores that help the environment, influence suppliers and food processors to harmonize their packaging with the environment in mind and affect the consumers via powerful information dissemination.

As retailers, supermarket operators in third world countries ask: “Why us? Is it not the job of the U.S., the E.U., Japan or the U.K. to take care of Environmental What’s-that-again?” Remember, peace does not merely mean no war. Therefore, the fact that we are not intentionally trying to destroy the environment, does not mean the environment will improve on its own. We all have to do our share. Happy SuperMarket-ing!

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Article originally written for the AsiaFood organizer T.I.M.E.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 March 2008 )