Little changes, big impact

Loblaw's recipe for doing good things for the environment: don't forget the store level, and get staff involved

When you think of Loblaw Companies, you think big. Big brand. Big stores. Even its environmental initiatives, like committing to sustainable seafood and growing the PC Green line of products, are big. But some of the best environmental programs within the company are small actions at the store level. They’re the types of subtle changes customers probably wouldn’t notice but which do good things for the environment.

Take, for instance, Loblaw’s efforts around waste diversion, says Sonya Fiorini, senior director of corporate social responsibility. Over the last couple of years in Ontario and Nova Scotia, and now also expanding to Western Canada, Loblaw has implemented a program involving multi-stream separation at store level that helps toward Loblaw’s target to divert 70% of store waste from landfills.

Mark Schembri, vice-president of store maintenance, cites the company’s bakery waste initiative as a successful long-term strategy for dealing with organic waste. Bakery waste that used to go to a landfill is now separated into different totes in-store and goes to a facility where it is processed into a grain-based animal feed supplement.

A number of in-store programs aimed at energy efficiency have also been launched. One initiative, called WWF-Canada Sweater Day, saw Loblaw turn down store thermostats by three degrees one day last winter. Employees wore sweaters to work and the event helped prompt Loblaw’s decision to lower the heating in all of its corporate stores by one degree.

The company is also getting its employees on board through the “Ask Galen” program. Staff can submit questions to head honcho Galen Weston Jr., and recently one employee asked about the disposal of hangers for the Joe Fresh apparel line. As a result, a recycling program was put in place for the hangers. Schembri says reducing adverse effects on the environment is part of making the business green, but so is being open to new strategies to do so. “It really promotes people to start thinking about how we do things differently.”