Interview of Bruno Garnier, Carrefour Group

Environmental claims on product packaging
Sep 2011
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Dec 2011

Interview of Bruno Garnier, Carrefour Group

Bruno Garnier, executive ot the Carrefour Group, is an expert in sustainable packaging. He tells us about the fundamental responsibility of the entrepreneur in environmental issues through the packaging. One of the key question of the working group entitled «How can packaging help to reduce waste and product loss.

 

CARREFOUR and CNE

 

What links tie both entities “for the best of packaging”?

 

Since the creation of its brand products, Carrefour took conscience of the importance of packaging in our consumption environment It means being mindful of its ecological footprint, hence of the social responsibility it entails, as well as being aware that packaging is inevitable in our business model.

We have thus wished for a very long time to collaborate with all the stakeholders that carry out a message and bring a positive action to the packaging sector. Overtime, the CNE became a preferred interlocutor that we necessarily had to involve in all our considerations. It also appeared essential for the CNE to take part in all our work groups so that we could share ideas and our entrepreneurial values.

 

Carrefour’s conclusions on the work group “waste and losses”

 

What did you think of the work group organization and of the plurality of stakeholders?

 

As far as I am concerned, I found the whole discussion very professional thanks to the interactions between the experts of the sector (other competitors, trade unions for materials etc.). French authorities are essential and I’ve noticed a gap in perception and expertise. In the end, these meetings and interactions are absolutely enriching for everyone and I have the feeling that I can eventually pass on a positive and responsible message to the authorities and to the NGOs. We are not in the most sparkling environment but it is far from being as dull as some like to say or make a business out of it. The CNE is a tremendous platform for communication and interaction.

 

How did you perceive the nature of the debates on waste? Calm? Stormy?

 

Calm, professional and pragmatic; deeply passionate and committed at the same time.

 

In the document itself, what major points and/or good practices can be highlighted (for manufacturers, distributors, consumers)?

 

The implementation of good practices is one of the solutions we found within the CNE Work Group and we will set out to bring progress on those aspects through different internal approaches. Collective responsibility, which is hardly present in our nowadays lives remains the main solution to tackle the difficulties inherent to our society.

 

Is the consumer aware of what he throws away and of its cost?

 

Having discussed it internally, I believe this is a generational question. The approach differs depending on your age, your personal experience, the region you come from and your education. However, I think that, “no,” the “average” consumer is not aware of this huge waste. It is our job and the authorities’ to communicate and remind people of simple gestures. The CNE Work Group and its Position Note are very clear on that point.

 

How will Carrefour lead the next step in terms of actions?

 

Packaging alone is not enough to solve these problems but it surely contributes to it. Within the Group’s policy on packaging and sustainable development a number of indicators are consistent with an overall reduction of the environmental footprint. To make it work, conveying good practices on the product’s packaging is a good start. Educating the consumer clearly, “No”, guiding, informing and charming him are values and keys for us to become his favorite retailer.

 

CARREFOUR and packaging

 

What are the current actions undertaken and what was done before regarding packaging?

 

We follow 5 main guidelines:

  • We reduce packaging at its origin and eliminate over packaging;
  • We prefer using mono-material solutions to facilitate sorting out for the consumers and to increase the recycling rate of materials in the existing waste recovery sector
  • We use recycled materials proceeding from the current recycling sectors;
  • We use certified material proceeding from renewable resources and manage them in a responsible way;
  • We print cardboard paper using environmental friendly inks and varnishes.

 

What are the flaws packaging must improve (increase shelf life, improve resealing, emptying of the product etc.)?

 

The eco-conception and good sense (staying tuned with our consumers) help us find multiple solutions while keeping in mind our goal to reduce the packaging’s overall environmental footprint Of course, one of the main indicators when approaching waste (which is also part of the eco-conception) is the one measuring the “return rate” of a product thanks to its packaging. Working on this indicator is simply good sense and an incredible effort towards the reduction of losses. If it is hardly perceptible to the consumer today, it certainly is something to promote tomorrow.

 

What are the advantages of packaging in the distribution sector? Are there advantages the consumer isn’t aware of?

 

It is our business model, so it is essential in many markets. Of course, among the key roles of packaging, some are invisible and some are visible but they are critical to the overall packaging life cycle. It is our job to work together “intelligently” for packaging to gain a better image among consumers and government officials.

 

According to Carrefour, how can we inform people without making them feel guilty?

 

Speaking to the youngsters, explaining them very simply the good practices they need to implement in the near future because they very often are prescribers to other generations on this kind of issues. This allows avoiding stigmatization while raising awareness.