France’s leading retailers yesterday pledged to reduce their impact on the environment under an ambitious plan backed by the government.
The Fédération des Entreprises du Commerce et de la Distribution (FECD), which represents 93 per cent of the country’s hypermarkets and more than 80 per cent of supermarkets, signed a charter that aims to promote sales of environmentally friendly goods, as well as those produced organically. It will also seek to increase levels of recycling in the country and lower carbon emissions from supermarkets.
Under the plan, the retailers, with combined sales of €178 billion, will launch a study to assess the carbon emissions of around 300 key items in an average French consumer’s shopping basket. The results would then be communicated to consumers on product packaging from 2010.
The retailers said they want to double the number of products carrying labels signifying eco-friendly production in the next three years. This will be backed by a national communications campaign running throughout 2008 and 2009, the group said. It will also work to reduce packaging waste by at least 10 per cent and increase recycling to three quarters of all glass, paper and cardboard used in stores.
The group said it has already reduced packaging by 10 per cent between 1997 and 2006, even as consumption of household goods has grown. Finally the group has promised to improve energy efficiency in its shops by supporting renewable energy and reducing energy used in refrigeration. It also plans to cut emissions produced in transport of goods to the stores.
The charter comes amid a wave of similar announcements from individual retailers in the UK as well as food manufacturers around the world.
Last October the British food industry’s trade body, the Food and Drink Federation, revealed a package of targets aimed at making the sector more environmentally friendly.
Rising awareness of how food is produced is creating demand from consumers for more environmentally friendly products. Industry is also under pressure to reduce carbon emissions as part of EU-wide targets recently announced by the trading bloc.
The French pledge differed from others by including organically produced foods in its environmental charter. It wants to increase the share of organic foods in the total range offered in its stores by 15 per cent each year. That will require “an evolution in French farming”, it admitted.
The organic industry claims that their methods of production are less damaging to the environment but those claims have been controversial with conventional farmers and others in industry.
Last week research analysts Mintel said sales of organic products were hampered by a lack of local production.