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Responsible retailing

Finnish retail company Kesko has been listed as one of the 100 most sustainable companies in the world. But what does sustainability mean in grocery and consumer goods business? Primarily, it requires getting everybody involved.

Published : 09.09.2020

Understanding the diversity of the customers and employees in consumer business is an important factor in the success of companies. How do you lead employees coming from different backgrounds and find the best people for your company? How do you make sure your subcontracting chain is responsible? Next to these social responsibility issues, minimising the negative impact of your operations on nature is a hot topic for consumer goods businesses, says Veera Iija, the Corporate Responsibility Specialist of FIBS.

FIBS is an organisation that supports Finnish companies to better understand the opportunities of sustainable and responsible business. FIBS brings together companies, NGOs and educational organisations. They can learn from each other and from FIBS’s international network.

– All sectors of corporate responsibility are connected to each other. This is evident when we look at the biggest global challenges, like climate change and conservation of biodiversity. Businesses have a central role in solving these challenges, Iija says.

Sustainability considered in every decision

Kesko, one of the two leading retail groups for daily consumer goods and groceries in Finland, has developed its sustainability programme for decades – and their work has been noticed internationally. For many years, they have been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices: DJSI World and DJSI Europe. Furthermore, Kesko has been on the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list ever since it was launched in 2005. This year, Kesko is the only company from the food and beverage retail sector to have made it onto the list.

– Our emphasis now is on the social responsibility of our purchases and on environmental issues, especially concerning the climate change. We have been developing our responsibility programme in every field of our operations,” says Matti Kalervo, Kesko’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility.

The whole chain of purchases is responsibly sourced, and it is audited when needed. When it comes to climate actions, the company is on the forefront. Kesko is reducing emissions through the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and optimised logistics.

– Today 100 % of the energy we supply to our stores and properties is from renewable sources, and there are 34 solar power plants located in K-stores. Thanks to our new energy recycling model our stores will soon be almost carbon neutral. With our intelligent planning of logistics, we optimise the routes and minimise the driving kilometres. We use forecast-based requirements planning to reduce food waste. Also, 80% of the foodstuffs we sell are produced in Finland,” Kalervo says.

Activating consumers with the cursing coal

The Cursing Coal is a character created for Kesko by cartoon artist Milla Paloniemi. When the company used the character to inspire consumers to download an app that measures the carbon footprint of the goods they buy from K-food stores, the daily number of new unique users tripled.

– The Cursing Coal is a fun, easy way of activating consumers to slow down climate change. Sustainable consumption needs us all: the producers, the retail buyers, the logistics, the retailers, and the consumers. We challenge everyone to reach our common emissions reduction goals, Kalervo concludes.