WWF: Tesco ranked most sustainable retailer in MY, local firms lag behind

Tesco has been ranked Malaysia's most sustainable retailer with a score of 76%, according to the recent Sustainable Retailers Scorecard by WWF Malaysia. The scorecard evaluates the environmental performance, sustainability policies, practices and efforts of the top retailers in Malaysia.

The retailers were required to complete a survey questionnaire and in-depth interviews assessing five key parameters - environmental policies, sustainable sourcing, sustainable packaging, waste management, and green initiatives and consumer approach. Tesco scored the highest in environmental policies (95%), followed by waste management (75%), sustainable packaging (73%), and sustainable sourcing (67%) as well as green initiatives and consumer approach (67%). Coming in second was AEON with an overall score of 54%.

AEON did well in green initiatives and consumer approach (79%), waste management (69%) and environmental policies (63%). On the other hand, it only scored 40% for sustainable sourcing and 32% for sustainable packaging. While the study found that multi-national retailers are leading in terms of sustainable retailing practices, local companies on the other hand were lagging behind.

MyNews Holdings was the top local retailer with a score of 33%. It fared well in environmental policies (57%) but did poorly for waste management (17%) and sustainable sourcing (6%). Meanwhile, Econsave came in last with an overall score of 17%. According to the report, while Econsave lacked in sustainability practices, it was transparent. Econsave had a score of 36% for green initiatives and consumer approach and 30% for waste management. It fared poorly for sustainable sourcing (17%), sustainable packaging (5%) and environmental policies (3%).

Out of the 18 major retailers selected to participate, only seven retailers responded - Tesco, AEON, AEON BiG, AEON Wellness, Econsave, MyNews, and CARiNG.  The other retailers were Mydin, Giant, The Store, NSK, Cold Storage, Jaya Grocer, Village Grocer, 7-Eleven, 99 Speedmart, FamilyMart, Watsons, and Guardian. According to WWF, retailers that declined to participate "cited various reasons for doing so, and were not transparent in communicating its commitment towards sustainable retailing in Malaysia".

As such, exhaustive secondary research from public domains was the main method of compiling information for these non-participating retailers, in order to produce a more inclusive report on the current sustainable retailing scenario in Malaysia, WWF said. According to the report, all participating retailers in general were aware of and adopting measures for more efficient resource management, reduction of food waste, and optimisation of supply chain. However, there is a lack of time bound targets and clarify on the goals.

The improvement of the performance of sustainable retailing in Malaysia requires greater and time-bound commitment from retailers.

The results also show that the retail industry in Malaysia is on the path for adoption of sustainable retailing, particularly in creation of awareness among customers. However, much improvement is required on sustainable sourcing.

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On the consumer front, WWF said they can use this scorecard to see how well the retailers they buy from are doing on sustainabiity practices. Consumers are also encouraged to acknowledge those retailers for starting to make a difference and being transparent. WWF said they should also demand retailers that are falling behind and non-transparent retailers to do more. Consumers should also look for sustainability certification logos on the products they purchase and demand for sustainable products.

Sophia Lim, CEO of WWF Malaysia, said for years, the responsibility of providing solutions to environmental problems have rested in the hands of governments and international organisations.

"We have come to realise that businesses, especially major corporations, can be the world’s strongest positive forces for environmental sustainability. Businesses and the public need to understand the profound effect we’ve had on the planet and be involved in the solutions," Lim added.

Meanwhile, Jazlyn Lee, WWF Malaysia's corporate engagement manager, said retailers should be more aware of the potential benefits that they can reap from adopting sustainable practices. "These benefits include mitigation of business risks related to climate change, and business growth stemming from efficient resource management and earning the trust of their consumers," Lee added.