Bristol could be the first city in the UK to hold major supermarket chains accountable for sustainability under new proposals.
Anthony Negus is spearheading the idea for a cooperative ‘Kitemark-style’ scheme, in which retailers would be awarded recognition for meeting a set of key criteria, such as using less packaging, reducing wastage and minimising distribution miles.
The Lib Dem councillor for Cotham believes the approach could be fundamental in reaching a number of goals the city has set, including a target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030 and tackling issues such as food poverty.
His motion, submitted to Bristol City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, July 7, highlights some of the negative issues that hamper sustainability ambitions and states a high profile cooperative scheme could help drive better practice.
“If we can bring this off, it will be a very different way of working and I think it’s fundamental to some of the problems we will have in the future,” says Negus, talking to Bristl24/7 ahead of the meeting.
“We are going to have to get the public and commercial interests buying into this; it would be a very high level, visible thing and I think Bristol is the sort of city that could pull this off. If we are to achieve lasting sustainable change then the ways we have done things have got to be broken down.”
Supermarkets have proven their ability to adapt rapidly during the coronavirus outbreak and the idea is that an incentivised scheme would help encourage major retailers to take big steps towards improving their sustainability credentials.
The motion notes that the council lacks the regulatory powers to control the negative outcomes from some large commercial organisations but states that a focused and co-operative use of resources might deliver multiple benefits, including a reduction in waste and plastic-use.
It states that a ‘Supermarkets Compact’, agreed with major chains, would “applaud good practice in a competitive market increasingly sensitive to improving sustainability, and open up opportunities for reaching out to customers, with rising credentials displayed on their premises and promotional literature.
“Such a scheme would be a simple and highly visible way of advancing our sustainability ambitions. It would be co-operative, competitive and catalytic while fair and sustainable.
“It would be a cost-effective way for this city to offer mutual solutions to long-standing common problems. It would be a bold advance in the crucial community engagement measures to deliver real-life sustainability, closer to the source.”
The motion is to go before the full council on Tuesday, July 7 and Negus hopes it will gain cross-party support.
Main photo by Ellie Pipe