ICA has set a high bar for its extensive sustainability work. As the first Swedish grocery retailer, its climate targets are now approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative. To achieve maximum impact – and business value – the sustainability measures involve both suppliers and customers.
To ICA, there are many drivers behind becoming a more sustainable company. Besides from the obvious one – a large corporation’s overall responsibility for its footprint – Maria Smith, Senior Manger Sustainability Strategy at ICA, also emphasized the business value aspect during Snapshot Breakfast:
“We have 16 million customers every week and know there are clear opportunities connected to sustainability. For example, we see that customers that add more than 10% of sustainable products to their shopping are more profitable in total.”
Today’s conscious consumers have high expectations when it comes to sustainability, and ICA’s work is also about fulfilling their wishes to create customer loyalty. The sustainability work is a strategic priority, integrated in all the operations on a daily basis, focusing on the main areas climate, health and food waste.
Climate Neutral by 2020
By 2020, the goal is that ICA’s operations should be climate-neutral, a goal that encompasses the impact of operations in stores, pharmacies, warehouses and offices from areas such as refrigerants, electricity and goods transports. Besides from environmental benefits, this is also about cutting costs; a big ICA store that invests in energy efficiency measures can save about one million SEK per year.
Since 2006, the efforts have decreased ICA’s direct greenhouse gas emissions by 61%, and the aim is to continue the decrease with another 9%. The remaining percent will ICA climate compensate for.
“The challenge now is that all the low hanging fruits are already plucked,” says Maria Smith. “The remaining 9% will require a lot of efforts and investments.”
Prevent Waste & Find New Usage
Recently, ICA announced another tough target: to cut its food waste by half until 2025. The group-common target, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, will be reached by three main actions: by implementing smart systems related to purchasing and logistics to prevent that waste occurs, by using tools in operations that help identifying products close to best-before date, and by applying new, circular business models.
”Instead of throwing away edible items that are damaged or close to best-before-date, we need to start viewing food as a resource,” says Maria Smith. “This requires cooperation with our suppliers. Among other things, we have a partnership with Rescued Fruits where left-over fruit is turned into fruit drinks that we sell in our stores, and a partnership with Gotlandsägg where we buy eggs with cosmetic defects, which we use to produce ICA’s pancakes.”
Connect with others
ICA’s ambitions stretch way beyond company walls and its own operations, and collaboration with vendors is a key factor to succeed. In 2025, Maria Smith and her team expect the majority of the suppliers to have to have the same ambitions as ICA has.
Another important factor is inspiring customers to make better choices. Here, the app My Climate Goal, with 35,000 users, allows customers to discover their footprint and choose products with less environmental impact.
“To succeed with our ambitions, it’s important with group common targets and to reach out to others,” says Maria Smith. “Together with producers and consumers, we can influence society in a positive direction.”
To learn more, also check out the on-demand webinar where Maria Smith talks about ICA’s sustainability work, accompanied by Ericsson, BillerudKorsnäs and Cognizant.