More reasons to think supermarkets are noting planet

Packaging at Morrisons

Is the tide turning towards environmentalism and business solutions that protect the planet and all its inhabitants? Even a little bit?

While our Governments remain slow to inject a real sense of pace and urgency towards the Climate Emergency, there are – as it were – green shoots.

After central Government announced money to fund cycling and walking projects [a week later that Scotland], in Surrey, it was dragged out of a representative of the county council some time later that there is a pop-up pedestrian pathway planned for Farnham, with another to follow in Reigate in a couple of weeks’ time.

At least something, then, at opposite sides of our wide “shire”. A beacon of hope that the thought is there, resonating somewhere within an authority that has declared a Climate Emergency.

Yet, it seems streets behind more permanent and expansive solutions in Manchester and Leicester and there is no solution offered to the muddle that is parking in cycle lanes on the stretch of the A25 between Reigate and Redhill. It’s hardly ‘doing a Utrecht’ where they are building a car free district for 12,000 people.

So, on to commerce. Reports reach us that, in Holland, organic material could be produced that could see the end of plastic bottles – even plastic – one day. These inventors give us hope that the thousands of plastic bottles found annually in River Thames, by volunteer litter pickers, could be eliminated.

A variation of shopping habits also brings a sense of hope of change. Aside from shopping more locally with minimal plastic on fruit and vegetables, the “not yet recycled” labelling, so beloved of Sainsbury’s, is less prevalent in Morrison’s on similar products.

And witness the bags given out for fruit and vegetables! Not plastic at all, but paper. Recyclable, compostable paper. Even the window, for those on the till to see inside, is a form of recyclable paper.

But what’s this on the back of the bag of apples and pears? “Recycle at larger stores,” with bread bags and such items.

Progress.

One up on Sainsbury’s, which shouts much louder on its website about efforts and targets to reduce plastic and excess packaging. Morrisons, by contrast, has a downloadable PDF available hidden in its “corporate responsibility” section .

“The linear model of take, make and waste is no longer working for business or the planet,” it screams, in an erudite message, as if some do not understand.

“It’s important we’re moving towards a circular economy; removing, reducing, reusing and recycling where possible. This can create innovation and new market opportunities.”

“It makes good business sense to reduce GHG emissions as it not only minimises these threats
but it can also deliver efficiencies, operational cost savings and create new market opportunities.
Stakeholder pressure for businesses to act continues to grow, with customer awareness
of climate change at an all-time high.”

They will reduce emissions, with targets of 33% by 2025, 53% by 2030 and zero by 2050. Some sort of plan, and urgency shown.

Sainsbury’s make similar noises, trumpeting their successes of sending nothing to landfill since 2013 (the recycling centres make a similar claim, but a lot of waste these days goes to incinerators, the benefits of which are still mixed). They are using 1bn fewer litres of water compared to 2005-06. And they make a pledge to help customers recycle their waste. Those bags are not yet recyclable, though.

At least, however, industry can see the problems. It can compete with each other in a way Governments can’t. It can take the global overview that Governments refuse to do, given the slowness and inconsistency with which they implement UN environmental “agreements” from such gatherings as Paris.

They are starting to change – thanks, it seems, to consumer demand. Hopefully soon Governments will see more urgency – now they can trumpet supplying energy from the grid without coal (1% of the total anyway) for a record 41 consecutive days – thanks to the demand of those same people; their constituents. We await news of how the county will plant its million plus trees in a few years – and when the public will have the chance to help them.

So far it is working with “community groups” and schools, one of whose 16-year-old pupils – via the Teach the Future campaign, asking for deeper embedding of climate change onto the curriculum – wrote yesterday:

The need for climate justice has never been more urgent, and yet much of our generation remains dangerously uneducated on the impacts of climate change. It is time to Teach the Future.”

While industry seems to have got the message, perhaps the politicians need to go back to school, in order to grasp the urgency of the matter, learn the solutions and show substantially more leadership than they do now, for those matters industry cannot control.