Vicky Kenrick of international sustainability recruitment consultancy, Allen & York, interviews Richard Ellis, head of corporate responsibility at Alliance Boots
Richard Ellis has spent the past 25 years working on CSR programmes for large companies such as BAE Systems and Lloyds TSB, as well as small businesses and charities. Since joining boots, two years ago, Ellis has modernised their approach to CSR bringing it to the 21st century and making it relevant to each of the company’s stakeholders.
Boots, like many other companies today, is facing growing mandatory reporting requirements, rising stakeholder scrutiny and increasing interest in socially responsible or ethical investment. Here, Richard Ellis discusses their current CSR activities and approach to sustainability.
VK: Incorporated in the Alliance Boots May Day Commitment you have a target to reduce the carbon footprint of Boots legacy stores by 30 per cent (compared to 2005) by 2020. Please could you outline plans on this will be achieve and, as CSR is now being seen as a direct driver of revenue growth and profitability; how this could contribute to revenue growth?
RE: We are looking into redefining equipment standards to incorporate low-energy technology within the stores. An employee engagement programme will take place in order to embed carbon reduction into the working culture of the business.
As a contribution to revenue growth – CSR supports the company reputation as an ethical business contributing to reduction in carbon emissions, this will enable customers to ‘feel good’ by shopping at Boots.
VK: How are you reducing carbon emissions from your stores in line with the given target?
RE: We have Investment plans for energy reduction projects of £5M per annum across the whole portfolio of stores. These projects range from replacing inefficient lighting to full HVAC upgrades and LED signage.
VK: Over the last few years the need for the UK to reduce its reliance on landfill has become more critical as existing sites are becoming full and new sites are not being developed. For many years Boots UK has been a leader in the management of waste and recycling activities within the retail sector, what have been your key achievements in this area?
RE: Reduced outer packaging on items is being dispatched to store as we speak. In 2009, due to a new process to assess product sustainability, we reduced our Christmas packaging by 1,400 tonnes and reduced costs in our supply chain of £1.3 million. We’ve also operated a recycling facility on our Nottingham Support Office site for the last 50 years. The current facility receives paper and cardboard, soft mixed plastic, glass bottles, printer toner cartridges and 35 mm film pots from our site and many stores.
All our Regional Cross Dock Centres recycle cardboard and act as transit points for our stores to send recyclable material back to our Nottingham Support Office for ‘bulking up’ and collection by recycling contractors. We are pleased that over 23,200 tonnes of materials are collected, sorted and recycled each year.
In our automated central distribution centre in Nottingham we recover the transit packaging, cardboard and plastic which we have removed from our suppliers’ deliveries. This makes life simpler for our stores and reduces the demand within our supply chain for returning packaging waste.
Non-recyclable waste is also sent for incineration with heat recovery rather than land fill.
VK: From your experience do you believe that the role of CSR and Sustainability can be combined or should remain independent?
RE: It’s just a name or a badge. Sustainability, CSR, CR are all about the businesses community taking responsibility for its actions; my role or job description would not change whether I was director of CSR or director of sustainability. Sustainability is simply the current buzz word; in a couple of years time it might be, biodiversity