Retailers have led the working to reduce waste in the system. Worldwide Wal-Mart has led the way by working with its vendors to find new ways to reduce packaging. For five years Wal-Mart has hosted an annual Packaging Sustainable Vendor Network and conference. This conference is designed to support Wal-Mart vendors in search of ways to improve their packaging. Their use of a scorecard has pushed life cycle analyses and increased awareness of process change beyond their own vendors.
In the UK, Marks and Spencer’s Plan A has been a leader in encouraging waste reduction since its inception in 2007. This makes their 2011 How We Do Business report of great interest. As the excerpt above shows, they detail their partnerships with charities to promote reuse of used clothing, what they are doing to recycle food waste from their stores. They state their original goals and their progress against those goals. To quote the report, “We’ve proved once again that sustainability makes good business sense, by generating a net benefit of over £70m through Plan A, and we expect this figure to increase as we scale-up our activities.”
Both these companies provide lessons in partnering but Marks & Spencer takes it one step further in engaging the consumer in the waste reduction process.
It was from Marks & Spencer that we first learned of what retailers can do to educate consumers on packaging disposal. This instructional image on the left is smaller than the adjacent bar code, which mean that minimal but critical space is devoted to consumer education. It is large enough to tell the consumer what to do with all parts of the primary packaging.
Both these companies show us what is possible in partnerships.