‘It shouldn’t be more expensive for consumers to do the right thing’. That was the sentiment shared by Noel Keeley, CEO of Musgrave at the Annual Guaranteed Irish Sustainability Forum, sponsored by Greyhound Recycling, on Friday October 21st in DAVY Group.
Guaranteed Irish CEO Brid O’Connell was joined on stage by leading industry experts to discuss sustainability in business. Included on the panel were Noel Keeley, CEO of Musgrave, Karen Deignan, Co-Founder of Sustainability Works, and Pat Kane, Founder of Reuzi. Key topics for discussion on the day were new sustainability initiatives, various options for funding new sustainable projects for businesses, the issues of ‘greenwashing’,
Kicking things off, Karen Deignan of Sustainability Works spoke about new European Union Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. This will see the introduction of mandatory EU sustainability reporting standards for business, and will become a requirement to meet for a much wider scope of businesses in a new range of industries, categories, and company sizes, which should in turn result in far greater positive impacts on sustainability and climate action in the EU as a whole.
Asked about Musgrave’s recent €25 million investment in it’s SuperValu & Centra stores, as part of the company’s net zero journey, Noel Keeley said ‘it shouldn’t be more expensive for consumers to do the right thing’. He also acknowledged that while an important aspect for all businesses is the return on investment for any large scale projects, they should take a step back from the balance sheet and see the sustainability, community, and environmental benefits of making such investments. While Musgrave do expect a return on their massive investment, as they aim to be fully carbon neutral by 2040, Mr Keeley stated that this is not a return they expect to be able to easily quantify purely based on numbers and balances, but in footfall, customer satisfaction, and the ability to prove their net carbon goals in the near future.
Pat Kane, Founder of Reuzi, spoke in depth on how the perception that sustainability is expensive needs to be challenged and changed if we are to truly embrace a sustainable future. Pat echoed the sentiments of Noel Keeley that being sustainable can be seen as expensive and highly inconvenient, using a very apt analogy that if you are in a hurry on your way home and need a bag of rice for dinner, you are much more likely to choose the quick, cheap, imported, less sustainable option from large supermarkets; than the smaller, more expensive but more sustainable option from a smaller organic retailer whose store might be far out of your way. Ms Kane said that this barrier needs to be addressed and being sustainable needs to be made far easier and more convenient for the consumer – which is what originally lead her to creating her company Reuzi.
Speaking on the ongoing issue of ‘greenwashing’ – whereby companies claim to be following sustainable practices when quizzed in public, but actually do no such thing – Karen Deignan said the correct and yet most difficult thing is for companies to just be honest. She encouraged companies to be open even when the truth is not the best for ‘PR purposes’, and said it is better for companies to admit their shortcomings and outline plans to improve, than to outright lie and get caught out. She also stated that companies are quite likely to be silent and say nothing rather than be open and honest, and that this is ultimately worse.
Noel from Musgraves agreed with this sentiment, saying Musgraves are firmly committed to this honesty when it comes to their sustainable practices, and that it’s more important to “put our money where our mouth is” and prove they are doing real work to improve their carbon footprint and adapt sustainable practices.