The drive for greater sustainability should not be sacrificed during the economic downturn, speakers told the IGD convention.

Sustainability remained good for business, said Morrisons marketing and communications director Angus Maciver. “What makes an ethical retailer? Fair prices, locally produced foods, reduced waste and packaging, and being involved in the community,” he said.

Kellogg’s reported that it had been reducing: packaging, sending food and packaging to landfill, water use and food miles. “Selling environmental sustainability is not a hard sell to our customers,” said MD Greg Peterson.

However the industry should be wary of ‘greenwash’, said Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King. He warned supermarkets and suppliers to be genuine with their initiatives. “Customers will sniff bullshit,” he said. “I think businesses that really do sustainability will continue to flourish. But a lot of greenwash will get washed away.”

Sustainability initiatives had proven quite resilient in the past year, but climate and carbon challenge would require investment, said Mark Lee, CEO of think tank SustainAbility.