Retail roundtable discusses benefits of supply chain sustainability

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th August 2009

The NSW Government yesterday hosted a major business roundtable to help develop the State’s sustainable retail market, with Marks & Spencer – one of the overseas leaders in corporate social responsibility – providing insights into the quest for more sustainable retailing.

Minister for State Development, Ian Macdonald, reported that up to 30 people, including representatives of the UK’s Marks & Spencer and a number of prominent Australian companies, attended the event.

“This is the first of several ‘thought leadership’ round tables to be organised by Industry and Investment NSW’s International Markets division over the next 12 months,” he said. “(The) event brings together key representatives of the NSW retail, food and beverage, fashion and consumer goods industries to hear from Marks & Spencer on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable retailing.”

Mr Macdonald noted that the critical issue of social responsibility could not be disregarded on the back of the financial crisis, with the implications on business becoming more noticeable.

“CSR is about including public interest in corporate decision-making through the honouring of a triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit,” he noted. “Consumers are increasingly aware of the implications of purchasing decisions in terms of environmental and ethical concerns, and corporations are under pressure to examine their entire supply chains from a CSR perspective.”

The Minister said Marks & Spencer remained a leading force for retail CSR in the United Kingdom through its ‘Plan A’ initiative which sets ambitious goals to be carbon neutral, cut landfill waste, source sustainable materials for products, promote healthy lifestyles for customers, and set new standards in ethical trading.

“By sharing its knowledge, Marks & Spencer will help accelerate the already growing phenomenon of CSR in Australian retailing,” Mr Macdonald explained. “There are many potential benefits for NSW companies involved in genuine CSR efforts including increased brand power, consumer appeal, and increased employee engagement through greater loyalty, improved recruitment, increased retention and higher productivity.”

Major firms represented at the event included Coles, Darrell Lea and Coca-Cola Amatil from the food and beverage space, as well as the likes of David Jones, Myer and Westfield.

A number of industry groups, including the Australian Retailers Association, Australian Beverages Council, Australian Food and Grocery Council, Meat and Livestock Australia, Horticulture Australia, and the NSW Chamber of Fruit and Vegetables were also represented.