Green issues may not have been a key element of business in Victorian times, but Morrisons still did its bit for the environment.
Since humble beginnings as a market stall in 1899, the firm adopted practices that would nowadays constitute modern eco-friendliness.
“From the outset, Morrisons has been focused on reducing waste and making sure we only use what we need,” says Angus Maciver, the company’s group marketing and communications director and co-ordinator of the Bradford-based supermarket chain.
The impact of food waste on the environment is often underestimated, he says. “The biggest carbon footprint in the country that individuals can effect is food waste. We believe, as a supermarket, that we have the lowest footprint in terms of food waste.”
The imaginative store design and way of working, with separate ‘shops’ on an in-store ‘street’ has an impact upon waste. “We have our own bakers, butchers and fishmongers. We make sure that each is responsible for managing the fresh produce in their shop so there is no waste. They know how much to produce each day for the number of customers who come in,” says Angus.
Adds Paul Forder, deputy store manager at Morrisons in Thornbury: “It is as if they are running their own individual business, and that approach dramatically reduces waste.”
Earlier this year, the firm introduced its Great Taste Less Waste campaign which followed a survey by the firm which revealed that nine out of ten households across the UK store their food in the wrong place. They were unaware that apples last up to 14 days longer if they are kept in the fridge, and tomatoes will taste better for longer if kept on the kitchen worktop.
The average UK family throws away around £600 of food each year because it has been stored incorrectly. Morrisons introduced stickers informing shoppers where food is best kept, and recipe ideas to help make the most of leftovers feature on the firm’s website.
“We want to keep costs as low as possible as the lower our costs, the lower the cost to the customer,” says Angus.
Food waste is collected, incinerated and turned into energy. “One of our sites makes use of an anaerobic digester, which breaks down organic materials naturally,” he adds.
The company is making huge efforts to cut packaging, and has removed more than 6,500 tonnes, taking steps such as reducing wrapping film thickness, saving 110 tonnes a year.
“Some people ask why we wrap cucumbers,” says Angus. “They last seven times longer when packaged as they lose so much water, so it is better to wrap than contribute to food waste.”
The firm has made great strides in decreasing its carbon footprint and has found ways to make its 391 stores – five of which are in Bradford – more sustainable.
In more than 200 stores, ozone-damaging HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) have replaced with chlorine-free HFCs. The firm pioneered the Heat Harvester system which combines the use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant with a system which recovers heat from refrigeration units and uses it to supply hot water. This makes it one of the most carbon-efficient cooling systems in a British supermarket.
Simple measures such as turning off lights in chiller cabinets overnight have also made an impact. “When ovens aren’t being used, they are turned off at the mains,” adds Paul. “And when we close, the main shop lights dim to a third of their normal power.”
This month, Morrisons became the first British supermarket to offer free battery recycling in all stores, and is expecting to recycle more than 300 tonnes before the end of the year.
Morrisons’ eco-friendliness extends beyond the stores, with its 650-strong fleet of trucks being equipped with satellite-tracking units in a bid to identify ‘green’ driving. “We can see how efficiently they are driven, and there is some healthy competition among the drivers,” says Angus.
The firm believes in buying British. Says Angus: “We deal directly with British farmers and use our own abattoirs,” says Angus.
“We are the only major supermarket that makes sure we supply regionally-produced milk.” Morrisons’ Let’s Grow campaign aims to help teach schoolchildren more about fresh produce and inspires them to follow a healthier lifestyle through learning how to grow fruit and vegetables.
More than 18,000 schools are registered with the scheme, which ties in with the national curriculum. Vouchers have been redeemed for more than 30,000 tools, 13,000 bags of compost, 29,000 pairs of gardening gloves and 10,000 growing kits.
The company’s efforts have paid off – Morrisons was one of the first companies in the UK and the first major UK food producer to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard, given to firms that measure, manage and reduce their carbon footprint.
“We reduced ours by 36 per cent,” says Angus. “It is great to be recognised for what we do.”