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Collaboration, sharing best practices key themes at Green conference

Canadian Grocer's Commitment to Sustainability conference saw key stakeholders discussing ways the sector can engage customers and industry

With sustainability even more ingrained into the daily operations of grocery retailers and manufacturers, the Canadian Grocer's Commitment to Sustainability event this year proved to be even more timely with discussions around best practices and how the sector can work together more collaboratively.

The morning started with Matt Loose, director, corporate sustainability practice at Stratos. He said that "sustainable food" is a hard concept to pin down and that companies have to pick their priorities.

The recipe for sustainable food is a complex process that requires innovation, said Loose.

This recipe, he said, includes sustainable ingredients, understanding sustainability from farm to fork, a consumer-centric approach, improvement of management performance and communication of your progress.

Next to present was Steven Sage, VP sustainability & innovation for Kruger Products who talked about the drive towards responsible sourcing.

He pointed to research that showed that responsible sourcing isn't a top priority for consumers. Among logos that were the most recognized among consumers, Sage said it was Fair Trade.

Some of the things Sage suggested to get the ball rolling is understanding your data and know what the alternatives to non-renewable resources.

Finally, Paul Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms offered up a view of how locally grown food could be better for environment and for health.

READ: A roof, some greenhouses, and a new way to supply supermarkets?

He said large companies don't do local well, and the solution isn't to make the industrial supply chain more efficient. He suggested growing produce where people consume produce.

Next, David Smith, a sustainability expert, moderated a discussion with Walmart's Andrew Pelletier, Loblaw's Sonya Fiorini, and Nestlé Waters' John Challinor II.

GALLERY: View Commitment to Sustainability event photos here

When asked what the biggest challenges each company was facing when it concerned sustainability, Fiorini from Loblaw said it was about customer engagement. What customer thinks is important isn't the same as what the retailer thinks sometimes, said Fiorini.

Pelletier concurred adding it's a challenge to come up with new innovative ways to keep business engaged with sustainability. Challinor added that sustainability is business plan driven.

All the panelists agreed that there is not enough sharing of best practices. Pelletier pointed to, Walmart's repository site where organizations can share their learnings.

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