Kingfisher shakes up sustainability department in Net Positive ‘evolution’

Two of Kingfisher's most senior sustainability executives have left the DIY retailer within the space of a month, as part of a radical restructuring of the group's management team to integrate CSR into the core of the business, edie can reveal.

Richard Gillies – who worked as Kingfisher’s group sustainability director – stepped down at the end of January; while director of sustainability and innovation Dax Lovegrove – who reported into Gillies – left the company in February.

The pair were responsible for leading Kingfisher’s progress on sustainability through its ambitious Net Positive plan, which seeks to transform the B&Q and Screwfix owner’s business model to have a restorative impact on the environment.

They are the latest in a line of senior changes to the FTSE 100 firm’s staffing structure under chief executive Véronique Laury, who last year replaced Sir Ian Cheshire – widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of sustainable business.

A spokesperson for Kingfisher told edie: “We are moving to a model where we are embedding accountability for sustainability delivery into the heart of our business, by getting functional and operational business owners to take responsibility for it.

“We are in a different place now to when we began our Net Positive journey. In light of that, it is not surprising that our sustainability team and the roles required to deliver it evolve as our Net Positive journey evolves as well.”

‘Truly sustainable’

Rather than reporting into a group sustainability director, Kingfisher’s sustainability team now falls under the remit of newly appointed chief customer officer, Pierre Woreczek, who joined the company last month from his previous position as chief brand and strategy officer at fast food chain McDonald’s. Sitting on Kingfisher’s board, Woreczek heads up Kingfisher’s sustainability, customer insights, corporate affairs and external communications divisions.

Woreczek said: “At Kingfisher, we aim to be a truly sustainable company, where social and environmental considerations are part of our culture and integrated into all of our operations. By integrating sustainability into all we do and offering customers solutions for sustainable products, we can help our customers create sustainable homes and generate value for our business.”

Kingfisher has also appointed Gemma Brierley as its new sustainability director for the offer and supply chain function. Brierley – who joined the company in January from the Ikano Group, which owns the IKEA franchise in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – is specifically focusing on improving and creating sustainable products.

Different approach

Former group sustainability director Gillies, who joined Kingfisher from M&S in 2013, explained to edie that his departure from Europe’s largest DIY firm was a “mutual agreement” between himself and Laury, as Kingfisher enters the next chapter of sustainable business.

“Following the departure of Sir Ian, Kingfisher is taking a slightly different approach to sustainability – driving the responsibility for leading sustainability much further down into the organisation,” Gillies said. “Therefore, my role has changed and Veronique and I took the opportunity for me to move on from the group and pursue other things.

“Things go in waves and phases – businesses are now moving into the next phase of sustainability; they are looking for different ways of embedding sustainability. Some of the great work that was done at B&Q is now being rapidly deployed to other companies within the group, as [Kingfisher is] doing more centralised purchasing – which is great to see.”

Gillies is now taking the opportunity “to pause and explore what to do next”, after 32 consecutive years of full-time work.

Meanwhile, former director of sustainability and innovation Lovegrove – who joined Kingfisher in 2014 after a decade with WWF – told edie he is “taking a break and leisurely looking for another role”.

Net Positive progress

The Kingfisher spokesperson insisted that the company’s commitment to sustainability “remains unchanged” and is “as strong as ever” on an operational level”. Through Net Positive, Kingfisher has 53 specific sustainability targets in place and is making good progress towards them.

A £50m investment in renewables to reduce grid energy consumption; reaching 96% of sustainability sourced timber used in products; and the development of its first ‘energy-positive’ Castorama store in the South of France stand out as notable recent highlights of Kingfisher’s Net Positive progress.

Luke Nicholls

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