Tesco's announcement to cut out plastic from its multi-pack tins is just the latest example of a supermarket demonstrating that it is serious about cutting down on waste. But this is just the start, and it won't just be supermarkets that need to change their practices. Climate change and environmental damage are real problems that will impact the bottom line for all organisations in a myriad of ways. Those organisations that recognise this and front up to this reality quickly will be the success stories of the future and (here comes the drumroll....) putting in place the right legal protections can help.
There is, of course, the obvious need to comply with environmental legislation (e.g. energy and carbon reporting requirements) but there are also more nuanced areas where putting in place the right legal framework can help. Ensuring that you have suitable corporate governance in place to respond to investor or shareholder pressure to "go green". Thinking now about how to protect your brand in the face of consumer direct action (e.g. boycotting of goods) may save you lost revenue and profit in the future (before you even start to consider reputation damage). This is not limited to consumers either (think of Google's recent experience of employee action). Supply chains will also need to be looked at. Putting in place suitable disaster recovery and business recovery measures (e.g. in the event of flooding/wildfires) and covering off the associated potential liabilities will be critical. The days of classifying these extreme events as "force majeure" may no longer appropriate. And perhaps most importantly, a key driver of success will be the implementation of appropriate technologies to overcome the hurdles posed by climate change. An obligation on suppliers to continuously improve and invest in the latest technologies that are environmentally friendly might make all the difference between being a winner or a loser. Imagine the response if you were the first supermarket that did not use a single piece of plastic.
The top eight UK supermarkets produced 58.3 billion pieces of plastic packaging last year, according to a report last year by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency.