Top of the Month: Iceland steals march on rivals with plastics pledge

If you asked the public which supermarket chain led the pack for green credentials, few would probably choose a retailer synonymous with low-cost, frozen food. But Iceland reaped the PR benefits of its plastics pledge in January.

With the issue rising up the political and media agenda, recent months have seen numerous companies take a stand on plastic; from Unilever pledging to use 100 per cent recycled plastic by 2025 to pub and restaurant groups abandoning plastic straws.

But supermarket chain Iceland is one company that, through the timing and approach of its plastics pledge, stole a march on its rivals in a move that may have helped subtly shift public perceptions of the brand.

Announcing plans to go plastic-free on its own brand packaging within five years, ahead of the Government’s suggested 25-year timescale, Iceland highlighted a survey that it carried out showing 80 per cent of people endorse the move.

In a strongly worded statement, MD Richard Walker said: "The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.

"The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change."

The news was covered widely across the media, with Walker appearing on several TV shows, including Good Morning Britain (interview below).

Campaign groups welcomed the pledge. Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: "We urge other supermarkets to follow suit and make firm commitments to move away from using disposable plastic packaging, and start by going plastic free in their own brands."

Iceland - which uses Weber Shandwick for its PR and Tangerine for social media - has shown that being a brand for the masses doesn’t preclude it from taking a moral stance. The retailer is now leading the way in its sector, against more 'upmarket' rivals traditionally associated with ethical causes.

Time will tell whether the glow of positive coverage will be mean stronger sales in the long term. But as an example of brand adding higher purpose to its positioning, Iceland has played a blinder.

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