Sharing supply chain stories ‘validates strategy’

By Trb Editor |

Beyond Plastics – Sustainability from the Broader Perspective was held on Thursday 22 April.

Actions and words are vital for securing stakeholder commitment to sustainability issues in the long term, according to an international panel of industry experts and consultants speaking during Travel Retail Sustainability Week (19-23 April).

 Online attendees to the industry’s inaugural networking and education virtual event dedicated solely to sustainability took a deep dive into the issues and opportunities facing DF&TR in the Beyond Plastics – Sustainability from the Broader Perspective session.

 

[To view a repeat of the session in full, click below video].

 

The international speaker line-up featured Suzette Carty, Director Global Sustainability, Brown-Forman; Suvi Reinikkala, Spirits Marketing Director, Altia; Hauke Will, Head of Agricultural Production, Albert Ritter GmbH; Stéphane Giraud, Travel Retail Director, Join the Pipe; and Jelena Lefavrais, Sustainability Consultant, Jelena Lefavrais.

 

RAW MATERIALS RETHINK ‘THE RIGHT THING’

 

Sponsored by Aer Rianta International, Brown-Forman, Coty, Mondelēz International and Ritter Sport, the session began with co-moderator and TRBusiness Senior Editor Andrew Pentol announcing the return of Travel Retail Sustainability Week in 2022 (18-22 April).

 

Offering the maiden comment, Reinikkala at Altia, producer of Koskenkorva Vodka – the world’s first climate action-positive vodka – said raw materials production should be a primary focus for pro-sustainability brands.

“As a company, we are changing the way we farm, and are willing to step up if governments don’t,” she stated.

 

In 2018, Altia partnered with several Finnish farmers and the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) with a pilot project that pioneered the production of regeneratively farmed barley.

 

A forerunner for long term industry change, Reinikkala is keen to share the experience and “help other companies to move in that direction.”

Brown-Forman Corporation recently launched its 2030 sustainability strategy, with Suzette Carty, Director Global Sustainability revealing a new focus on sustainable outcome-centric partnerships.

 

The company shared some hard-hitting 2017 US National Academy of Sciences statistics, with potential savings of up to 322 billion tons of CO2 if the global farming community made the switch to regenerative farming – the equivalent of 10 times the weight of current annual global emissions.

 

Her comments were echoed by Ritter’s Will. He stressed the value of sustainable partnerships using the company’s Nicaragua farm as an example.

 

The importance of doing the ‘right thing’ with supply chain partnerships and committing to transparent consumer communication was emphasised by Hauke Will, Head of Agricultural Production, Albert Ritter, GmbH.

As part of a 30-year partnership, the 2,500-hectare carbon positive farm includes 1,200 hectares of natural agro-forest habitat.

 

“If you are working in raw materials through supply chain you need to do the right thing and if you have these [intensive] partnerships, you are able to have really transparent communication with the consumer,” he said.

 

TRANSITION TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

 

Altia is committed to achieving ‘super ambitious goals’ through future sustainability efforts and is already ticking off milestones.

 

In 2014, it launched its first bioenergy plant at the Koskenkorva distillery, which Reinikkala reports has already achieved circular economy status.

Stéphane Giraud, Travel Retail Director for tap water movement disruptor Join the Pipe, is confident that since the Covid-19 crisis, ‘people will be more careful about what they buy’.

 

The distillery recycles 99.99% of all materials with plans to achieve carbon-neutral production and fully recyclable packaging by 2025.

 

Sustainable packaging is topping Brown-Forman’s to-do list following a recent sustainability strategy refocus through to 2030.

 

Global Sustainability Director Carty said: “The strategy needed to go through the entire organisation. Before, we had a particular focus on operations. Now we are expanding outwards and you will start to see us doing more partnerships to work together on achieving sustainable outcomes.

 

“Even in supply chain we decided we now need to set targets. Once we start to embed more sustainability in our packaging, it will become more visible our [business] customers and consumers.”

‘GOOD NEWS MESSAGING’ COULD DRIVE STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN

Session co-moderator and TRBusiness Head of Events & CSR Michael Barrett posed the question that, as travel picks up could travellers potentially be more receptive when it comes to ‘good news messaging’?

 

For Join the Pipe’s Giraud, the Amsterdam-headquartered disruptor behind the movement to install tap water bottle refill stations in all major cities, it’s the right time to push the sustainability agenda.

 

The company also uses travel retail channels to sell its reusable bottles, made from sugar cane, which help finance water projects in developing countries.

 

Giraud believes that since the Covid crisis, “people will be more careful about what they buy”.

 

He continued: “We’ve recently seen San Francisco International Airport has decided to stop [the sale of] single-use plastics [for all beverages], and this is an airport that handles 28 million passengers per year. That’s a really big message to send to travellers.”

 

Brown-Forman’s Carty is seeing increasingly positive conversations taken place between business customers and consumers.

“In the last 20 years, there has been huge demand from stakeholders to see how organisations are actually dealing with environmental and social issues,” noted Jelena Lefavrais, global sustainability consultant.

“In talking one-on-one to the customers, it’s [on] what we could possibly work on together as a partnership,” she continued.

 

“And where we’ve had wins is where our brand ambassadors speak directly to the consumer. We haven’t had big campaigns where we have directly addressed the consumer, like with TV ads, but I think this is an opportunity as consumers are looking for transparency and authenticity.”

 

Altia is going all out to share the sustainability vision with its audience, as Reinikkala explained: “It’s a challenge because we try to make it entertaining. Sustainability can be really boring and our industry is all about fun.

Suvi Reinikkala, Spirits Marketing Director, Altia talked about the company’s pioneering regenerative farming project and passion for helping other companies ‘move in that direction’.

“For example, we have a Drink Sustainably communication platform. Through that we share all the sustainable efforts we make. It’s everywhere from retail boards and on trade to digital advertising. We tell a holistic story through 360-degree communication.”

 

DATA-DRIVEN TRANSPARENCY ‘A MUST-HAVE’

 

During the session, Global Sustainability Consultant Lefavrais highlighted the importance of non-financial reporting and data gathering.

 

“In the last 20 years, there has been huge demand from stakeholders to see how organisations are actually dealing with environmental and social issues,” she told the virtual audience.

 

She also emphasised the value of sustainability reporting as an industry-wide support mechanism.

 

“Externally, we are obviously gathering data that can be cross-checked within the industry to generate the metrics that make it easier to progress on a global level.”

 

However, progress will not be possible without addressing the current travel retail business model.

 

Lefavrais advocates for better in-store visibility and square footage for those brands prioritising sustainability, noting that without support “the message doesn’t get across to the consumer”.

Short-term concession agreements are another factor that she believes could stymie retail and messaging opportunity.

Report by Claire Malcolm. For more information and to get involved with Travel Retail Sustainability Week, including the pioneering Sustainability Pitch programme, click here.

TRBusiness would like to thank all its premium partners (below), Sustainability Pitch judges, participating companies and viewers for supporting Travel Retail Sustainability Week, which will return on 18 April 2022.

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