Working with the European Commission, the sector has launched a Retail Forum with the goal of cutting down on the environmental impact of consumption patterns across the continent.

The forum plans to tackle the direct impacts of the shops themselves as well as their supply chain.

It will also promote green products and try to inform consumers about their shopping options.

Over time the result should be greater availability of environment-friendly and energy-efficient products in the shops and better information to consumers on how to use products in the most ecological way.

Companies involved in the forum will share ideas about best practice, discuss how to promote sustainable consumption, address obstacles that hinder it and obtain scientific information from relevant bodies to help evaluate environmentally sound products.

The EC’s Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Retailers can make a major contribution to the achievement of more sustainable consumption and production patterns through the products they choose to stock and promote.

“By bringing the retail sector together with other relevant stakeholders, the Retail Forum can help to accelerate this process.

“I very much welcome the environmental commitments already made by a number of retailers who have joined the Forum, and urge others to follow their example.”

Pierre-Olivier Beckers, chief executive of the Delhaize Group, representing the European Retail Round Table (ERRT), added: “Retailers are focusing more and more on sustainability not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because our customers – and our stakeholders – demand it.

“There is no alternative.

“Despite the very difficult economic climate, the move towards sustainable consumption will only deepen and accelerate. It is part of our strategy.

“Indeed, the younger generation of consumers and of our staff associates are even more demanding in terms of what they want us to do. They will keep the pressure on us into the future, a pressure we accept and welcome.”

David Gibbs

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