2017 was a standout year in terms of sustainability at Foodstuffs with the business breaking new ground in electric vehicles, packaging, increasing food donation to local communities and leading the way in plastic reduction.

From the 1st July 2017, Foodstuffs was the first supermarket company in New Zealand to be 100% microbead free. The decision followed international research that revealed microbead contamination of the marine environment. The move generated significant media coverage and was supported enthusiastically by consumers.

Foodstuffs announced in September of 2017 that following an extensive review of its egg sourcing and animal welfare policies that the business would be 100% cage-free within 10 years.  With immediate effect, Foodstuffs increased customer communications around barn raised and free-range eggs, reduced the range of caged eggs on offer, and undertook a programme to transition of the business to cage-free over the next few years.

Food donation is an expanding programme and in 2017 we developed relationships with new food rescue partners and extended the range of items donated, with a focus on fresh healthy foods. Food equivalent to 3.95 million meals was gifted by New World and PAK'nSAVE stores to food rescue organisations.

Stores continue to join the Waste Minimisation Programme, with 123 sites on board at the end of 2017. Average recycling rates have increased to 84%, and many now divert over 90% of waste away from landfill to other uses, including food donation, recycling and composting.

In 2017 the Soft Plastics Recycling scheme went from strength to strength with more support than ever from Foodstuffs.  Foodstuffs stores account for the top 10 stores collecting soft plastics.  A staggering 12 tonnes a week of packaging are now being picked up and reprocessed into outdoor furniture, decking and street furniture.

Foodstuffs will have 50 electric vehicle fast-charging stations in store carparks by the end of 2018 to enable customers to charge while they shop. In addition to this, we have introduced 28 electric vans to stores around the country to help our stores reduce their emissions in their everyday operations.

All new store construction and major refurbishments over the last four years have had natural refrigeration systems installed. These new systems use CO2 rather than synthetic gases, reducing refrigeration related Green House Gas emissions by 99%.

Our stores continue to track down in terms of energy consumption thanks to the improved design and more efficient components such as lids and doors on freezers, LED lighting and heat recovery on refrigeration. Many stores now have live energy monitoring and reporting, helping maintain good practice and identify opportunities for further savings.

And, then there’s the move to exit single-use plastic bags.  In October 2017 New World launched BagVote; a campaign inviting customers to share their thoughts on a possible levy on single-use plastic bags. The overwhelming majority voted ‘Yes, charge me for bags’ but we missed a key question; should we move to no single-use plastic bags at all?

We received significant customer feedback that they wanted this option. In response, New World has made a commitment to exit single-use plastic bags by the end of 2018.

In preparation for this change, we’re giving away two million long-life reusable shopping bags to customers through various retail initiatives.

To further support New Zealanders with the transition, New World is principal sponsor of the “Bags Not” movement, designed to provide helpful hints and tips to remember your reusable shopping bag and encourage shoppers to say “Bags Not” when offered a single-use plastic bag.

There’s more to come in this exciting and challenging space. 

By Mike Sammons, Sustainability Manager, Foodstuffs NZ