Promoting Sustainability or Promoting Sainsburys?

Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have come out joint top in a study of the UK’s most environmentally-friendly supermarkets by the National Consumer Council (Brand Republic, 15th October 2007). It seems that Sainsbury’s is trying to maintain this strong green stance. This week the supermarket chain is launching a range of own-label ‘green’ household cleaning products called Cleanhome. The formulations use sustainable natural ingredients and ‘wherever possible, packaging is recyclable or made from recycled materials’ (Marketing Week, 18th October 2007).

On Saturday, Sainsbury’s will also give away one million energy-saving light bulbs at its stores. The giveaway is timed for when the clocks go back, to encourage people to save electricity during the dark months ahead (BBC, 22nd October 2007). Customers will have to complete a green pledge in return for the bulb.

Most forward-thinking businesses now have sustainability on their agenda at a high level. Cynics might argue that this is a clever promotion and an attempt to gain approval from customers and boost sales. Perhaps Sainsbury’s light bulb giveaway is simply a type of loss leader? For environmentalists, the underlying reason for increased awareness of sustainability does not matter; it is the end result that counts.

The Times 100 presents a case study explaining how the primary producer Anglo-American has developed its social and environmental responsibility.


Anglo American – Social and environmental responsibility

M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose top green supermarkets study – 15 October 2007

Sainsbury’s set for green range launch – 18 October 2007

Sainsbury’s in lightbulb giveaway – 22 October 2007

Potential Study Questions

  • What is meant by the term ‘loss leader’? How might the light bulb giveaway be considered a loss leader?
  • Evaluate the impact on long-term profitability of an organisation developing a social and environmental responsibility agenda.

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Corus – Sustainable business at Corus
This case study outlines how Corus contributes to sustainable development and good business practice through its steel recycling initiatives.
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