The first ECR Ireland Supply Chain Workshop took place at Unilever in Citywest, Dublin, on Tuesday 20 February where industry leaders discussed sustainability from a supply chain perspective and the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

Company case studies were delivered by Owen Keogh of Musgrave, and Gemma Lannon of Unilever, each demonstrating their organizations’ sustainability missions and initiatives from the perspective of a retailer & supplier respectively.

Owen Keogh, showcased Musgrave’s impressive sustainability initiatives emphasising their commitment to partnership, collaboration and a sustainable culture throughout its supply chain values. Musgrave’s initiatives include installing solar panels in stores and warehouses, upgrading lighting and refrigeration for energy efficiency in their stores, and Eco-friendly store refurbishments. Musgrave is aiming for net-zero carbon emissions, aligned with global climate goals, as well as improving and implementing a transport decarbonisation system. They support producers in their decarbonisation journey and are actively engaging, educating and motivating customers to make sustainable choices. Owen also highlighted the importance of supplier collaboration to achieve both trading partner’s sustainability targets.

Gemma Lannon, delivered a comprehensive overview of Unilever’s sustainability journey, emphasizing the evolution of their Sustainable Living Plan since its inception in 2010. In the third phase of Unilever’s Compass initiative, the plan focuses heavily on sustainability from a manufacturers perspective. Central to this initiative is the commitment to reduce carbon emissions throughout the supply chain, ensure clean water sources, promote healthy soil harvesting and embrace the principles of the circular economy sustainable donut model. Gemma expressed Unilever’s mission “not only to avoid causing harm, but also to do better”. This includes engaging consumers worldwide in adopting healthier habits and promoting inclusivity, diversity and sustainability. Part of Unilever’s sustainability project is to engage and reach remote communities across the world and engage in healthy and sustainable practices.

The following section of the Workshop considered the DRS launch with Ciaran O’Donnell, Coca-Cola’s DRS Lead and Orla Twohig, Musgrave sharing invaluable insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by the scheme. Their first-hand account offered attendees a deeper understanding of the impact of DRS implementation on various facets of the business and operations.

Ciaran highlighted the significant adjustments required by manufacturers to comply with the scheme’s packaging regulations. These adaptations meant changing raw materials, production processes, storage methods, logistics, labeling and using different bar codes for products in compliance with the DRS Machines.

All attendees divided into breakout groups to debate how trading partners can drive sustainability in their dealings with each other within supply chain. An important topic that emerged was the need for alignment throughout the industry so that companies have similar milestones, compatible roadmaps and use common language. A need was expressed for effective collaboration in internal communications regarding sustainability initiatives, cascading internal targets, ensuring alignment across different levels of the organization and creating accountability. Participants also discussed the logistics of organizing sustainability-focused events and identified key stakeholders responsible for their management. Furthermore, there was consensus on the value of creating a peer-to-peer industry market group, providing a forum for stakeholders to convene, exchange insights and collaborate on strategies and methodologies to advance sustainability strategies collectively.

The ECR Supply Chain Subgroup will propose next steps to consider an appropriate forum for broad industry alignment on sustainability targets.

The next ECR Supply Chain Workshop will focus on Supply Chain Collaboration.

It takes place in Bird’s Eye on May 15th 

Check out here about our Supply Chain Focus Group