Selfridges Project Earth

Source: Selfridges

Project Earth encompasses labelling, in-store events and reselling initiatives

Selfridges has launched a major sustainability initiative, incorporating labelling, in-store events and reselling initiatives.

The luxury department store kicked off Project Earth this week as its chairman Alannah Weston said coronavirus had helped it understand how “fragile” its systems are.

The scheme will see Selfridges own-label and branded food and drink products split into categories through their labelling to highlight the items’ environmentally friendly attributes. 

For instance, over 700 Selfridges products from more than 130 brands that contain recycled materials and ingredients or reduce the consumption of single-use plastics are labelled as Reducing Waste, and over 550 products from more than 20 brands that avoid all animal-derived ingredients are labelled Vegan.

This labelling programme was previously called Buying Better, which began in 2017, and has since become part of Project Earth to bring Selfridges’ sustainability initiatives under one banner.

It includes grocery items such as chocolate, coffee, alcohol and meat. Selfridges Selection chocolate slims (rsp: £9.99/120g), for example, are made with organic beans grown on family-run estate Chocolarder, while its own-brand Sustainable Edition Stockport gin (rsp: £46.99/700ml) makes use of leftover citrus fruits from its bars and restaurants. These SKUs come under Selfridges Forest Friendly and Reducing Waste labelling categories respectively.

The luxury department store is also striving to become entirely organic across its Food Hall and restaurants.

In addition, Project Earth sees an abundance of signage about the scheme and its associated commitments installed in all four Selfridges stores and across its website above each applicable item. The in-store signage has been created from recycled or sustainably sourced materials.

It will also see Selfridges partner with urban farming company InFarm to install an indoor vertically-grown plant unit with organic herbs for purchase at its London flagship store from next month. This comes in response to increasing questions from customers about the origins of its produce.

This will be rolled out across the retailer’s estate if successful, its sustainability director Daniella Vera told The Grocer.

It comes alongside the rollout of new retail models, such as repair, resell, refill and rental services.

‘Resellfridges’ will be the retailer’s first own-label resale model when it launches next month. Vera confirmed items customers opt to resell or have repaired do not have to have been purchased from Selfridges.

Project Earth begins with a series of 13 talks, takeovers and screenings, as well as nine webinars across September and October discussing topics such as climate change, sustainable beauty products and ethical eating.

“Customers are reassessing their relationships with the items they own. There’s this enormous wave of shoppers thinking really differently about what they want and need. Our annual survey published at the beginning of the year found 85% of our customers are more concerned about climate change this year than last year, and we’re getting so many more questions about where food comes from than ever before,” explained Vera.

Weston said: “Project Earth is not only our bold, new commitment to stretching environmental targets, it is about imagining new ways to do business, within the next five years. Out of the global pandemic has come an understanding of how fragile and complex our systems are, but also how our planet and people can benefit if we act collectively with a shared purpose.

“Now more than ever we must double down on our efforts to reinvent retail with sustainability at its heart and a way of working which is regenerative for humans and nature. Achieving our ambitions won’t be easy, but we are in a unique position to be able to work with our team members, partners and customers to co-create change and explore possibilities for a sustainable future.”

Anne Pitcher, global MD of Selfridges Group, added: “In a way we never could have predicted, the cycle of consumption has been broken by the pandemic, marking a moment of change in our customers to a more considered mindset and requiring us to set new expectations for retail. We firmly believe evolving the way we do business and supporting change in the way people shop is essential to building a more sustainable business.

“Selfridges has the platform to change how shopping is done wrapped up in the destinations, experiences and inspiration customers want from us. And the tough, stretching targets we have set ourselves underpin our commitment to change our business and our ambition to imagine and create a sustainable future for our customers.”

This follows Selfridges announcing it would have to make 14% or around 450 members of staff redundant due to what Pitcher called its “toughest year”.