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Sustainability represents future - World Retail Congress
May '09
Senior figures from Tesco and Woolworths South Africa opened the World Retail Congress in Barcelona this morning in a breakfast discussion dedicated to the business of sustainability.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's Corporate and Legal Affairs Director and Andrew Jennings, Managing Director Retail, Woolworths South Africa were joined in the panel discussion by David Shriver, Former Special Advisor to the CEO of Carrefour and Guy Champniss, Head of Intelligence Unit at Havas Media.

Trust, engagement, authenticity, communication and understanding customers were the key issues highlighted by the panel during the discussion, which was facilitated by W Sean Ford, Vice President, Global Business Unit, Oracle.

David Shriver commented: "As things stand, it's not just about retailers not doing bad, it's about actively doing good."

He added that central to this being a reality is the need for retailers to embrace new communication channels, such as YouTube, rather than relying on traditional methods of disseminating information. Woolworths South Africa managing director of retail Andrew Jennings agreed, noting that sustainability is not "an appendage – it's a way of doing business".

Both Jennings and Lucy Neville-Rolfe stressed that the world's greenest retailers are those that have sustainability as an integral part of what they do, rather than opting for a pick and mix approach.

Following the results of a survey presented at the session by Guy Champniss, in which he showed that not all consumers are naturally inclined to adopt sustainable behaviours, Neville-Rolfe said that motivation and shopper incentives were essential if retailers are to lower their environmental impact.

Citing as an example the way in which plastic bag usage has been halved at Tesco over the past two years, she said that this had been achieved by offering shoppers “Club Card” points in return for using their own bags. Retailers need to encourage and help customers to change their behaviour, she said.

The panel was also united in urging retailers to be consistent in the message that they deliver to shoppers. “If you're not consistent, [sustainability] messages have a real potential to backfire,” said Champniss.

As businesses throughout the globe continue to battle the toughest economic conditions in recent memory, it has become increasingly clear that, as the current business challenges are the direct consequence of a new integrated global economy, so too are the solutions.

Retailers can no longer afford to operate or think in isolation, and will collectively debate at the World Retail Congress the strategies to see them safely through the consumer spending famine and position their businesses for long term stability and growth.

The World Retail Congress has welcomed more than 2,000 retail leaders since its launch in 2007, and has quickly established itself as one of the most important events in the retail calendar. This year, the discussions promise to be the most challenging yet, as retailers address a wide range of business critical issues, such as driving growth in international markets, the science behind innovation, the people agenda, e-commerce, the changing consumer and maximising business efficiencies.

The programme has been set in extensive consultation with the industry and the Congress Advisory Board, which includes some of the era's most inspirational retailers, ranging from O Boticario to Myer, Mango, Harvey Nichols, Tesco, and Gap.

The World Retail Congress is organised by Emap Communications, in association with key sponsor, Deloitte.

World Retail Congress 2009

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