When it comes to doing their part for the planet, IGA stores across Australia have taken on a variety of initiatives that demonstrate their commitment to making the world a better place and draw Australia’s environmentally-conscious shoppers into the store.
As an overall group, big initiatives range from phasing out plastic bags (more on that below), to helping promote a “Food Smart Challenge” campaign aimed at reducing household food waste. Participants sign up on the Australian IGA homepage to be part of the four-week challenge, where they weigh and log their food waste, take part in menu planning, and identify other ways to cut back on the amount of food that ends up in the trash.
On a community level, stores are involved in a myriad of projects, big and small. Some of these stories are shared through the new “1,400 Stores, 1,400 Stories” campaign, which highlights unique aspects about stores from across the country, said Heather Howell, national PR and content manager for Metcash Supermarkets & Convenience (the parent company to IGA in Australia). The campaign is a way to tell those stories about sustainability, said Howell, including these examples:
Taking a Moral Stand
For starters, take a minute to get to know Julie Quinton from IGA Warrandyte, which was the first known grocery store in Australia to only stock cage-free eggs sourced from Australian farmers.
“Folks in the industry told me it was retail suicide,” she says in this “1,400 Stories” video about her decision to follow her moral beliefs, as well as honor the legacy of her husband, who died unexpectedly in 2007. As part of that legacy, Quinton also carries a substantial amount of organic, local produce and installed solar panels on the store.
“We’re in charge of these businesses that have to stand for something. They have to be an extension of us,” Quinton said. “There’s a big shift I’ve seen happening and we’re a part of it.”
Plastic Bag Ban
Perhaps the biggest initiative happening across Australia is the phasing out of single-use plastic bags. Many stores have already banned plastic bags because of their detrimental impact on the environment. Last year, IGA retailers nationally announced their commitment to becoming plastic shopping bag free.
To support the cause, wholesaler Metcash now offers all IGAs a wide range of alternatives such as paper bags, jute bags, calico bags, cardboard boxes, reusable bags, and boomerang bags. Boomerang Bags is a not-for-profit organisation working to reduce the use of plastic bags by engaging local communities in making bags—community made, using recycled materials. A series of videos produced by IGA also help tell the story of the move toward eliminating plastic bags.
One of the first, IGA Bingara, banned plastic bags in 2010 in response to customers’ environmental concerns.
“There are lots of supermarket owners around the world and not too many can say they were one of the first to ban plastic bags at checkout. So if I had a legacy in the industry that would probably be it,” said Store Owner John Bishton, in a short video produced by IGA.
“I think it’s fair to say that single-use plastic bags are a little outdated,” said Craig Stephenson, store manager at IGA Dungog, which started phasing out plastic checkout bags in 2017. “We’re at the point now where the majority of our customers are bringing their own bags,” he said in an IGA video.
Responding to shoppers’ expectations
In addition to the “1,400 Stories” campaign, stores are using Facebook and other social media as well as their store websites to get the word out about changes they are making with customers in mind. For instance, Wembley Supa IGA is leading the way in clean eating, being the first supermarket in Australia to partner with Additive Free Kids and assist consumers in identifying additive free products. How it works: products that are free of harmful additives are marked on the shelves with an easily recognizable logo.
So far, the store has reviewed more than 7,200 products and identified more than 1,400 as additive free.
As part of the renovation that transformed the Good Grocer IGA’s Shenton Park store in Perth, new doors were installed onto all dairy, meat, and freezer fridges, one of a number of environmental measures. “We’re very conscious of the environment so we are looking at alternatives to plastics and wrappings on products,” Group Manager Chris Adams said in a news report. “We’ve gotten rid of all plastic straws, replacing them with paper straws, and we are giving people an option with bamboo cutlery.”
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