Private Brand retailers are making progress in advancing sustainability, but they recognize that success takes time.

A panel of retailers at the My Private Brand Sustainability Summit discussed industry efforts ranging from packaging changes to supply chain transparency. They emphasized the importance of taking the time to achieve results that will last.

“The work will be ongoing,” said Steven Jennings, Stakeholder Relations and Brand Lead, Health & Sustainability, Ahold Delhaize US/Giant. “It’s nice to have a five-year plan, but it is 10- to 20-years out that we especially want to look at. We need to continue to adapt to changing customers’ wants and desires.”

Fine-Tuning Private Brand Strategies

Seanna Rishor, Vice President of Private Label, Sobeys, said it’s important to further define strategies over the next few years to make sure initiatives are on target.

“If we’re going to attach sustainability to our brand, we need to make sure it has a clearly defined purpose,” she said. “Sustainability is a very big word, so we’ll need to narrow it down to what is most important to the customer. And we must make sure anything we do is scalable.”

Enhancing the Development and Creative Process

Dan Rahi, head of Private Brand Execution and Design, Family Dollar, said customers will see the results of retailer sustainability efforts over time, and he pointed to how he is using the DFE (Design for the Environment) approach to inform strategies.

“We’re a growing company and our Private Brands portfolio is growing,” he said. “We’re learning as we grow. We want to make Private Brands more sustainable. We are trying to understand and interject DFE into our product development and creative process. In the next couple of years you’ll see this reflecting on shelves as products become smarter.”

Making Sure Suppliers are On Board

Rishor emphasized that retailers need to make sure suppliers are aligned with retail sustainability goals.

Christopher Durham, President, My Private Brand, who organized the Summit and moderated the panel, said sustainability discussions should be part of the ongoing dialogue between Private Brand retailers and suppliers.

“I’d like to see manufacturers include this topic when they bring bids,” he said. “They can say, for example, here’s a more sustainable packaging option. Retailers will never get upset if you give them more options. Suppliers can say this is what you asked for, but let me show you something that’s better for the environment and for your customer. That helps manufacturers become the partners they want to be.”