As the world economy is rapidly moving away from an oil and consumption driven model to a green, sustainable way of doing business, Business Review would like you to share the projects and ideas for a better world of leading sustainability, environment, and CSR professionals from top Romanian companies. For this, we recently started #GreenRestart, a special editorial project, aiming to become a platform for green initiatives of Romanian companies.
The first interview of this new series sees us talking to Felician Cardos, Environmental Manager at Carrefour, one of the largest retailers in Romania and one of the most active companies in terms of sustainable, environmental and CSR initiatives.
- What are Carrefour Romania’s main directions in terms of environment?
We are aware about our major environmental duty, so we act responsibly through concrete initiatives, to reduce the impact on the environment. We are seriously looking at our packaging policy and at the way our own brand products are packaged. At a group level, Carrefour has set short term goals for 2025, meant to considerably reduce the presence of plastic and other materials which are harmful to the environment in our packaging policy. Moreover, we are making sustained efforts to reduce food waste. The two objectives are complementary and are meant to ease the burden we put on nature and its fragile ecosystems.
Taking matters further, in terms of responsibility towards communities and environment, Carrefour Romania launched “Punem Pret pe Plasitc” (We value plastic), a circular economy project which aims to reduce the quantity of plastic packaging and to reintroduce plastic in a responsible circuit, through reduction, reuse, and recycling.
Furthermore, we introduced biodegradable and compostable bags, together with a wide range of biodegradable products, we started selective collection programs, and we started initiatives to encourage sustainable habits. Those initiatives are completed by our decade-old contribution to the Food Banks – Red Cross and our support for many other programs through which we are supporting vulnerable communities and reducing food waste. In 2015, the Carrefour Group has committed to reduce the carbon footprint of its stores all over the world by 40 percent until 2025 (compared to 2010). Since 2019, we already are at 39 percent. Today, Carrefour commits to take this goal even further, working together with consumers and suppliers, to improve our production and consumer ways: supporting local production, eco products, reducing the use of packaging, promoting vegetal products which have a lesser impact on the environment.
Carrefour takes this endeavor further by setting a new goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent for the products sold in our stores, meaning 20 megatons of CO2 less.
These new objectives were approved by the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi), run the the CDP, Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF, confirming Carrefour’s commitment for the 2°C scenario developed by the IPCC.
- What environment projects have you concentrated on in the past year?
In 2020 our priority was safety. It is clear these were some challenging times for everyone and more so for those who find themselves in the front line. I’m referring to the entire workforce involved in the fight against COVID, but also to our colleagues in the stores, who I consider very brave and altruistic people. The pandemic disrupted and delayed part of our plans, but now, in the final months of this year, we want to resume some of our well-established projects. We are planning to resume “Pay with PET,” in a manner adapted to the current context. Most likely, the campaign will kick-off in Brasov, with the opening of a new Carrefour hypermarket.
- What can you tell us about involving our communities, together with Carrefour Romania, in protecting the environment, as a collective effort for a better future?
Right from the start of the pandemic, we realized that we will be encountering big difficulties with waste resulted from facial masks and medical gloves. Obviously, the wise decision indicated that we must treat this seriously, so we gathered around us several partners capable to dispose of this new and problematic source of waste. It was a pleasant surprise to find so many civic groups and NGOs with the same preoccupation. This was the reason behind our alliance with Geeks for Democracy, together we supported awareness and accountability campaigns. They are very preoccupied and proactive, probably this was the reason behind the success of our campaigns. We receive positive feedback and encouragement messages daily, and our clients were very receptive in disposing of these materials responsibly.
We are always looking for feedback from our customers and the local communities. We want to consult with them when it comes to environment issues. On many occasions, it’s the customer who educates us, not the other way around. Caring for the environment is an effort we should all make: retailers, communities, NGOs. We are currently in the advanced stages of developing an environmental guide with our partners. We estimate that it will be released towards the end of this year, if nothing unexpected happens, and we hope that when it will be ready it will help us manage our efforts more efficiently.
- What are the most efficient methods to educate the population in having a more responsible behavior towards the environment, in the long term?
First and foremost, it’s imperative to have a clear and non-discretionary legislative framework. Secondly, I would say having information channels for creating awareness regarding environmental sustainability policies. I’m talking about all the different programs meant to show the population what are the best practices for managing household waste, but also what it means to have a responsible behavior towards the environment. Imagine having TV ads about selective waste collection, just like the ones about how many liters of water we should drink daily. At the end of the day, it’s all about health. Our health and that of future generations.
And last, but not least, a functional collection infrastructure. Citizens need to see that their effort to collect waste selectively aren’t made redundant when the garbage truck comes along. There are many leverages through education, we don’t need to invent anything new. My opinion is that we can’t do it all at once, but if we manage to reduce food waste and to recycle efficiently (reaching the 50% mark imposed by the EU) over the next 5 years, we will have much to gain.
- How do you think the Deposit Return System (DRS) will be implemented in Romania and how long it will take?
Certainly this is the hot topic of these days. Recently, the draft law entered public debate and all those interested in it were invited to express their views on it. We know from the past that the minister tried to import the system from a country where it proved efficient. Of course, it will need to be adapted to the specifics of our country. There were discussions in all the associations, including studies done on the subject, but most of the time without a consensus. A law written in fast-forward, without a real consultation with the stakeholders, won’t make a big difference. The system can be implemented only when all stakeholders will commit to the project. Let’s not forget that commitment is a two-way street.
If everything will run smoothly and we will have a fair deal, I estimate that by 2023 we will have a functional Deposit Return System.
- What are your future plans for Carrefour Romania’s environment strategy?
Firstly, we aim to keep our commitment to the goals set both at group and local level. I am glad that we are seen as a company dedicated to environment issues and one that makes the right steps to prevent and reduce our impact on nature. I am sure that this will give us even more energy to excel on this topic in the future. My personal ambition is for the retail sector to become the torch-carrier in educating consumers and pushing for policy change on environmental issues, all in a clear and efficient manner. Certainly, we are only a link in this chain, but our contribution can be decisive in our country.