Polls conducted at the IGD Convention, held in London this week, revealed that 41% of delegates thought sustainability was a "long-term steady commitment", while 45% "gave it more attention every year". Just 9% said sustainability had never been a priority, and only 5% said they had put sustainability on the backburner.
Some 43% of delegates claimed their business had cut carbon emissions by between 10% and 25%, and 15% said they had cut emissions by up to 50%. Just 10% said they had not made any progress.
They were also sending less waste to landfill. Although 40% had made either only a small reduction or none at all, 28% had made big cuts, 21% had cut waste by at least half and 11% were sending zero waste to landfill.
Sustainability would remain a pressing issue, predicted speakers.
Nestlé UK CEO Paul Grimwood described it as the "biggest challenge" for the industry and said that 50% of the calls it received last year to its customer helpline were sustainability related compared with 15% the previous year.
"Taking action isn't the nice thing to do but the essential thing to do," he said. "If 50% of consumers are concerned, then it's a big point of interest."
Nearly half of delegates (48%) admitted rising input costs were giving them the biggest headache, up from 38% last year. This was followed by skills shortages (14%) and the slow pace of consumer spending (13%).
However, delegates were excited about the prospects for online retailing. A third (32%) predicted online sales would account for 12% of total grocery sales by 2010, up from 2.6% this year.
Irwin Lee, vice president, UK & Ireland for Procter & Gamble, revealed it had had massive success with online virals in the past year, especially with ads for Old Spice, and a Gillette 'trick shot' viral featuring tennis star Roger Federer.