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Five trillion plastic bags. That’s the number of single-use (double, if you have a dog) bags used worldwide every year. To put that into perspective, the bags spread out side-by-side would cover an area twice the size of France says a U.N. report released on World Environment Day in June. And you don’t need to run risk analysis to know that recycling isn’t putting a dent in the world’s plastic overload. Stories about discarded plastic littering the oceans or piling up in landfills hit the headlines with increasing frequency. Fortunately, companies are addressing a wide range of important issues through Corporate Social Responsibility programs—including Kroger, America’s largest grocery chain.
Turning Reputational Risk into Reputational Wins
Do CSR programs really make a difference? We’ve talked about positive results on our blog before—from LEGO’s commitment to plant-based plastic building blocks to the stellar performance of an investment fund focused on U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Recently, Kroger chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen laid out the company’s plan to become a fully sustainable, zero-waste organization by 2025.
USA Today shared McMullen’s late-August announcement in which he writes, “As America’s largest grocer, we recognize we have a responsibility to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste that contributes to litter, harms the environment and, in some cases, can endanger wildlife.” He’s correct. Just a few months ago, National Geographic reported on a pilot whale death attributed to 80 plastic shopping bags trapped in its stomach.
McMullen is also addressing customer expectations, noting “Our customers have told us it makes no sense to have so much plastic only to be used once before being discarded.” He goes on to say, “We believe we can help our customers be what — at Kroger — we call ‘Zero Heroes.’” The transition will take place over time to allow Kroger customers—more than nine million people each day—to “adapt to a new way of shopping.” When the company hits the target of zero single-use grocery bags, it will reduce the waste generated by these bags by 123 million pounds per year.
Trust is in short-supply these days. But by committing to CSR or ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) standards and establishing the processes to reduce exposure to potential reputational or regulatory risks—such as employee training, third-party due diligence and risk monitoring—companies can earn trust AND a healthy bottom line at the same time. Do you have a CSR program in the works? We’d like to hear about.
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