Caroline Laurie answers Corporate Citizenship’s questions about Kingfisher’s new Sustainable Growth Plan.
How does the Sustainable Growth Plan relate to the core business strategy, the ONE Kingfisher ambition?
Two years ago, we started our journey to become the leading home improvement company. We chose to put our collective energy behind our purpose: to create good homes by making home improvement accessible for everyone. To achieve this, we are transforming our business, placing customers at the heart of everything we do, from the products on our shelves to the way we run our operations.
Sustainability sits at the very heart of that transformation. We know that a good home is a sustainable home – one that is resource and energy smart, clean and healthy, durable in quality and style. We have an opportunity to help our customers create the good homes they deserve.
We launched our sustainable growth plan to help us do just that. Our plan is focused on the issues that matter most to our customers. It builds on the work we have been doing for many years and includes ambitious new goals and targets to take us even further on our journey to become a truly sustainable company.
Please explain the shift in emphasis to the consumer with the new Sustainable Growth Plan
We’ve made a conscious departure from targets that focus predominantly on the ‘big wide world’ and our own operations. What we do as a business is important, but we believe that connecting with customers in their homes is what will drive lasting change. That’s why we talked directly to customers across Europe. We asked them what they cared about, what mattered to them, their families and their communities, and what they wanted and needed in and around their homes. Using this insight, we are integrating sustainability into the products and services we offer to create value for our customers.
What were some of the key findings from the customer survey on sustainability? Any surprises?
We learnt that the term ‘sustainability’ leaves many customers cold, but even though they don’t use the ‘s-word’, sustainability issues resonate with many of the things customers care most about. People told us they want homes that are functional, healthy, energy smart, and green inside and out. And they want all of it to be affordable and cost-efficient to run.
We also discovered clear barriers. People often find sustainability too complicated or time consuming, particularly when they are grappling with an already complex home improvement project. Customers want us to make it easy for them, so that sustainability becomes automatic. They want to buy sustainably and create a sustainable home without having to think too hard about it.
How does Kingfisher plan to connect with consumers in order to enable them to make sustainable choices?
Real impact and lasting change can only come when we can guide and change the behaviours of our customers. We now have four big goals, all based on the issues that customers told us are important to them during our research:
– Save money by saving energy and water;
– Live smarter by getting more from less, re-using or using longer;
– Create a healthier home and connect with nature;
– Be part of a community that helps millions more people improve their home
We believe that by translating sustainability into something personally meaningful for customers, and by integrating sustainability into the products and services we offer, we can make a real difference.
How does Kingfisher plan to partner with suppliers to meet the sustainability goals?
Our suppliers are vital in helping us to achieve our goals and we are increasingly collaborating with them to bring our customers innovative and sustainable products.
Take our easyGrow technology. It completely reimagines the way bedding plants are grown, packaged and make their way through the supply chain. We’ve eliminated peat and replaced polystyrene packaging with PET plastic that can be easily recycled again and again. It all started with us convening all our horticulture suppliers to ask if they could find a way to reduce the amount of peat used in our products. They rose to the challenge and easyGrow was born.
How is sustainability integrated into the culture of Kingfisher?
We are working to build in sustainability everywhere in our business.
The first step is to demystify sustainability, cut out the jargon and speak to the rest of the business in a way they understand. A fundamental part of this is being able to demonstrate the benefits to them. Historically, sustainability CSR was considered a duty, but now it is clear that done right it brings massive benefits to the business.
Our sustainable growth plan is designed to maximise value to the business. It supports our company ambition and proposition. It will drive business efficiency, and improve best practice. It will kick start innovation and drive commercial growth.
It is embedded in the way we operate and linked to commercial objectives.
Specifically, our sustainable growth plan includes a commitment to create new products and services that help people to achieve a sustainable home. That means it’s not just our sustainability team that is driving this agenda, but our buyers and our product development teams. And we are setting an ambitious, business-wide target to achieve 50% of group sales from sustainable products by 2020.
Caroline Laurie is Head of Sustainability at Kingfisher PLC.