Sustainability set to be a focus in ‘new normal’

reverse vending machine

As Scotland begins the process of easing out of lockdown, it looks clear that customers will have different priorities under the ‘new normal’ and an increased focus on sustainability could be one consequence.


All the normal rules of retailing clearly went out the window over the last few months as both retailers and shoppers turned their attentions to simply getting their hands on the staples and basics they needed to survive – but as we begin the process of easing out of lockdown, we will see consumers begin to turn their attentions to more ‘normal’ priorities.

It’s clear that the world has changed in the last few months with a sense of community returning to many parts of Scotland and once consequence of a more compassionate society is likely to be a greater focus on sustainability. We’ve all realised how precious our communities and environment are to us recently; it makes sense that we might want to take more care of them in future.

That presents a fantastic opportunity for community retailers to do the right thing – and also grow their businesses into the bargain.

One thing we now know for sure is that Scotland will have a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) come July 2022. The Scottish Parliament voted to pass the DRS legislation into law last month so at least we have some clarity on that issue. But what does it actually mean for retailers and what happens next?

Mark Brill, Vice President Sales and Marketing at TOMRA Collection Solutions UK & Ireland, explains: “A Scheme Administrator will be appointed in the next few months. They will be responsible for the operational aspects of the scheme.”

The ‘go live’ date for the scheme has been set as 1 July 2022, with the rest of the UK set to follow suit in 2023.

The scheme will include PET plastic bottles (such as most fizzy drinks and water bottles), steel and aluminium cans, and glass for all types of drinks in these containers ranging from 50ml to 3L.

Quorn helps tackle climate change

Quorn has launched a campaign to highlight how the brand is helping people take a ‘Step in the Right Direction’ when it comes to sustainable food choices, as part of the fight against climate change.

The multi-million pound campaign is spearheaded by ‘Step in the Right Direction’ TV advertising and the introduction of Carbon Trust certified ‘Farm to Fork’ carbon footprint data on its top-selling products, rolling out on packs this month.

The new TV campaign runs throughout the year and asks people to consider their food choices in the fight against climate change.

Quorn is the first meat free food manufacturer in the world to publish the carbon footprint of its key products and the first food manufacturer to go through the Carbon Trust’s Climate Leadership Framework, to help identify a roadmap towards achieving net zero emissions.

It’s a huge challenge for the sector, but one that Brill is encouraging Scotland’s local retailers to tackle positively.

He comments: “A DRS is a proven way of achieving high recycling rates for beverage containers, reducing the negative impact that this waste has on the planet. The goal of the Scottish scheme is to capture 90% of drinks containers within three years.”

Brill says some large, multi-site retailers are already planning for how they will accept returns but he urges local retailers to use this time to understand the scheme and their role within it.

The obvious Big Question will be whether retailers choose an automated returns system via a reverse vending machine (RVM) or a manual system. That decision will largely come down to how many customers a store typically serves in a week and, of course, whether they have space inside or outside the store for an RVM. There are however several very small footprint options available to retailers now, including Tomra’s M1 machine.

What really matters however, is the fact that a DRS scheme is very likely to be popular with customers and, managed well, can help drive footfall and engagement as well as enhancing the experience of visiting your store.

“A DRS creates a wealth of opportunities,” says Brill. “From helping the environment to attracting consumers. Plus, if retailers choose to give consumers the option of donating their deposits to a nominated charity, it is also a chance to foster a sense of community and make a difference in other ways.

LRS ‘Growing For Good’

As part of the Suntory Group’s ‘Growing For Good’ vision, Lucozade Ribera Suntory is using its position in the industry to lead the soft drinks category in driving positive change. “Growing For Good means everything we do as a company always benefits its community, and by continuing to do good things for society and the environment we will help make a better, brighter future post-Covid-19 and beyond,” says Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

The company is helping identify quick sustainability wins for local retailers to help them reduce their carbon footprint and improve their sustainability credentials at every possible step, including what they buy and where they shop. Over the next 12 months, LRS and the Energy Saving Trust are partnering with a retailer on a major project to show how small changes can make a big difference in making stores more environmentally and financially sustainable. They will be looking at areas including lighting, chillers, heating and waste reduction.

The company has also made significant progress in reducing its reliance on plastic, such as moving to make Ribena Squash and Ribena 500ml bottles out of rPET, and in 2019 Ribena’s best-selling bottle was light-weighted, removing 325 tonnes of plastic from production annually. All Lucozade Sport bottles will be made with 100% recycled materials from this year as part of the company’s ambition to move to using 100% sustainable plastic across its entire portfolio by 2030.

“We have also invested in our Coleford factory, opening a new £13m energy and water-efficient production line,” says Gouldsmith.