Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail (PR GTR) hosted a compelling panel discussion on sustainability during the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes.
The event, which took place inside the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Christian Dior Suite, gathered leading industry voices to exchange ideas on driving change in ethical consumerism across the duty free ecosystem and highlight opportunities for innovation and collaboration.
Mohit Lal, Chairman and CEO at PR GTR was joined by Vanessa Wright, Chief Sustainability Officer at Pernod Ricard; Mélanie Guilldou, Head of Sustainability & Responsibility at Lagardère Travel Retail; and Joanna Yarrow, Founding Partner at M&C Saatchi LIFE and former Head of Sustainable & Healthy Living at IKEA.
The far-ranging discussion covered: the growing importance of sustainability and increased consumer concern and desire to take action; the risk of greenwashing and how this could descend into ‘green hushing’; the unique opportunity presented by the in-airport moment to engage with consumers and communicate in the right way about sustainable initiatives; and the role technology and design can play in minimising the environmental impact of the industry.
The panel quoted research by m1nd-set which found that 62% of shoppers expect more sustainable options when shopping in duty free compared with traditional retail.
Lal stressed the significance of this in the broader context: “Being sustainable has to become as integral a part of your business as your customers, products, employees and partners,” he said.
He posed a number of poignant questions to underline it being at the core of business, including: “In the future, what answers will you give your customers when they ask you what have you done about sustainability over the past few years? How will you approach travellers with the same question? And how authentic will your answers be?”
From the retailer perspective, Guilldou raised how sustainability can mean different things in different regions, from diversity and inclusion in the US to low carbon strategies in Europe.
“Nevertheless, in airports where you have all the nationalities in one place, you need to raise the bar on this topic,” she said.
Wright pointed out that while there may be differences in perception between regions with nuances in each market, as people, we have “far more in common than what distinguishes us.”
Yarrow spoke of work that M&C Saatchi LIFE has been carrying out with a global insights organisation that surveyed 31 different markets about climate change and a “basket of sustainability issues” to learn more about their attitudes.
“The headline is that levels of concern and desire have never been higher – and they are sticking,” she said.
“What people are now seeking is evidence of more joined up action. They want brands to really demonstrate how they are taking these principles into their business and not just asking [for action from] consumers.
“They are looking for cross sectional partnerships, for brands to be working with governments and for innovation.
“In the space we are talking about, when we are really interfacing with consumers as they think about how the world joins up because they are travelling, there is opportunity for us to highlight all we are doing as brands – we see there is a pretty universal open ear for that discussion.”
Confident communications on sustainability
On the topic of greenwashing, Yarrow said that consumers being on high alert for this means that “we are getting serious about this” as a society.
“We have to really demonstrate that this agenda, or bucket of agendas, is really baked into our core business – and that’s not just to avoid greenwashing,” she said.
“This is about the core sustainability of human business. So take 2030 as your customer. If you want to be in business in 2030 then you better make sure you are looking after the resources and the people that are going to make you thrive.
“Show your customer how are starting to do that in your business, as well as in your product and experience.”
The panel underlined the need for transparency – and to not be afraid if you don’t have all the answers, all the time in order to avoid green hushing.
“I understand the nervousness, but when you have iconic global very powerful brands, there is almost a duty to try and take some of these big global messages and communicate them and take people on a journey with you,” said Wright.
It’s a sentiment that Guilldou concurred with: “Most of the time we are a little bit shy or even avoid communicating what we are doing,” she said.
“But we need to explain it to customers, so they understand that we are doing our best and that we have targets and a trajectory.”
Lal recommended focusing on building trust as a key reason to drive initiatives so that everything stems from a platform of credibility.
“The future consumers will stick with brands that they can trust,” he said.
Rounding off the conversation, Yarrow recognised the need to ‘copy and paste’ best practice and also encouraged individual brands and companies to discover their superpowers and what sets them apart in terms of what they can do best to accelerate change.
“I would love to see the travel retail industry leaning into that superpower of creating a really different, thoughtful experience around sustainability,” she said. “Where you show the bedrock of your practice, but you also help people to make an emotional connection with sustainability.
“Last week was a brilliant opportunity to showcase Pernod Ricard’s continued commitment to drive sustainable change in global travel retail and to discuss with our customers and partners how we can do more,” summarised Lal.
“We may not have all the answers yet, however this is a great start to the conversation.”
Further to the panel discussion, the group’s fully sustainable exhibition stand and branded suite achieved an estimated 40% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 2019.
These were developed using Pernod Ricard’s retail design Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Tool for Merchandising, which launched in 2021, as previously reported, and has now been used across more than 280 travel retail projects.
Stay close to TRBusiness for our in-depth interview with Liya Zhang, Vice-President of Marketing and Daniel Worboys, Head of Retail Design at Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail.