Irwin Lee

Welcome to this year’s green issue of The Grocer! The industry has certainly come a long way from the first ‘Earth Day’ movement in 1970. And while the UN Climate Summit this week focused on countering the arguments of climate change sceptics, it is encouraging that - in our industry at least - the compelling need and business benefits of addressing sustainability are now well understood, with a clear consensus developing on the cost of inaction and the bottom line help of prudent actions. Everyone gets it and is on it - from the usual suspects you’d expect, like M&S; to those you might not, such as the discounters.

However, when we reflect on the subject of sustainability, we need to broaden our definition. Sustainability is naturally and appropriately equated with ‘going green’. For business leaders, though, I think there are at least two other vectors falling within the sustainability agenda: the sustainability of the communities in which we operate and the sustainability of our people.

“In this radically shifting grocery landscape, should we not invest equally in the sustainability of our people and our workforce?”

Irwin Lee, guest editor, The Grocer; vice president and managing director, Procter & Gamble Northern Europe

The burden of sustaining communities often rests on the shoulders of charities, like FareShare - with its efforts on food redistribution to address poverty - and In Kind Direct, which has redistributed £130m worth of surplus goods from businesses to charities since 1997. These organisations make a huge difference in our communities while also helping businesses reduce costs and their landfill impact; we can all do well by doing good - and should do it more.

But should we not invest equally in the sustainability of our people and our workforce? My chairmanship of Business in the Community’s Workwell campaign has reinforced to me the costs of stress and the strains put upon our resilience as organisations by pressures at work.

In this radically shifting grocery landscape, many grocers and suppliers are going through these pressures - at its most extreme, after only 27 days on the job. Half the battle in navigating our businesses through these uncertain, turbulent and tumultuous periods is nurturing a sustainable organisation with the right culture and support systems. That should be as important as taking care of our businesses and the planet.