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Responsible consumption and production matters

Consumers recently identified Coop Denmark as the most sustainable grocery brand in Denmark. What kind of pressure does that bring for other companies to join the campaign for responsible production?

I recently attended a corporate social responsibility (CSR) network meeting where the grocery chain company Coop shared its sustainability strategy. The company was awarded the number one spot in Denmark this year, as determined by the Sustainable Brand Index – the largest brand study on sustainability in the Nordics.

The study draws on more than 40,000 consumer interviews addressing sustainability, branding and communication, using the UN Global Compact (UNGC)’s 10 principles as a framework. The Index aims to help companies improve sustainable branding and encourages them to communicate their sustainability efforts to consumers. The latter aligns with what socially-conscious millennials seek from sustainable companies – open and honest communication.

The growing importance of responsibility

When it comes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2018 Sustainable Brand Index report shows that consumers identify SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production, as the number one priority for companies. This goal looks at improving the way we produce and consume goods and resources, as well as encouraging industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste. The commitment to meaningful change starts at the very beginning of the supply chain, with a focus on responsible sourcing of sustainable raw materials, and it continues all the way to the retail and consumer level, with reducing food waste.

Sustainable sourcing matters

One important step food producers can take is choosing the most sustainable raw materials possible – and that includes taking a closer look at palm oil.

While there has been media attention about palm oil as a raw material because of concerns around deforestation and local working conditions, palm is the most efficient crop per hectare when compared with other plant-based raw materials such as soya, sunflower and rapeseed. Certifications such as those offered by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), ensure that these kinds of concerns are addressed in a fair and transparent process and that consumers can have faith in the sustainability of the raw materials used.

RSPO labels allow companies to clearly communicate their CSR efforts to consumers and to demonstrate how seriously they take sustainability. The organisation has set an ambitious target to achieve 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil across Europe by the year 2020 and the RSPO plans to work hard with companies, and the communities they operate in, to reach it.

Involving youth

In an effort to increase awareness around responsible consumption, the RSPO recently partnered with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia to run a video competition for young people aged between 18-23. Entrants were asked to create short videos centred on three calls-to-action:

  • Buy only what’s needed
  • Recognise the RSPO label on products
  • Manage waste

81 videos were submitted as part of the competition, gaining a total of over 52,000 views. Tiur Rumondang from the RSPO commented: “It’s crucial that the younger generations learn to develop the relevant values, attitudes, and skills required to live a more sustainable lifestyle.”

It is necessary to embed these values in youth today, as they will be leading change in the future. The success of the video competition demonstrates how eager the younger generation is to engage in this pertinent conversation. In fact, we can learn from their agility and openness in recognising the importance of investing in sustainability.

Commitment to our future

In 2015, the UN member states gathered in New York to sign the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was here that the SDGs were launched, creating a platform for companies and individuals around the world to “protect the planet from degradation through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.”

The work of organisations like the RSPO better prepares socially responsible companies to meet the 2030 Agenda’s goals. Their work, and the work of other like-minded organisations, helps to raise consumer awareness about the repercussions of not prioritising sustainable brands.

Sustainable certification and labelling initiatives like the RSPO ecolabel make it easier for customers to identify products that support the SDGs and the UNGC’s ten principles – and to use their purchasing power to demand that more companies follow Coop Denmark’s lead.

About the author

Lisa Drejer Mortensen

Lisa Drejer Mortensen has worked at Palsgaard for more than 20 years and has since she first participated in the implementation process on strategic CSR at Palsgaard in 2010 focused strongly on strategic CSR management, reporting and project management. Lisa has participated in a number of CSR related seminars and conferences in Europe, CSR-net-workings, and is a member of the Task Force Group on Sustainable Palm oil of Denmark and has gone through an RSPO endorsed Training Course on RSPO certification. She manages the CSR tasks at Palsgaard as well as trademark registrations. She holds a Bachelor in Business Export and diplomas in specialised business studies from Odense Business School and Odense Technical School.

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