Sustainability attitude at Manor
Customers are strongly supportive of sustainable and socially responsible activities
1 Nov 2021

Are consumers willing to change their shopping habits for products that are produced and distributed both sustainably and in a socially responsible way? At Manor, Switzerland’s largest department store group, there is a high demand for such products, both for the food and non-food offerings. They currently operate 59 department stores, as well as 28 supermarkets and 27 ‘Manora’ restaurants.

Manor takes sustainability and social responsibility seriously. The company was among the first in the industry to develop and commit to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The company’s management is closely involved in updating its strategies on this topic regularly, and its sustainability department runs several programmes to ensure that the standards are met. Furthermore, they actively seek feedback from customers, mostly through online platforms. The sustainability department takes customers’ concerns seriously and tries to address them in its programmes whenever possible.

One of the most prominent sustainability programmes is ‘Rethink Everyday’ label, which it uses for its non-food products. As explained by Stefanie Schmid, Head of Sustainability at Manor, this label is fully embedded in the company’s culture: “Only those who think sustainable can act sustainable, which is why it is not a short-term trend, but a question of attitude”. With the values ‘Reduce, Reuse, Renew, Rethink’, Manor attempts to develop an enhanced level of awareness amongst its customers and suppliers towards sustainability.

The ‘Rethink Everyday’ label defines a minimum sustainable standard for its suppliers for a diverse range of products, both private labels and international brands. Products under this flagship label are mostly made of organic and recycled materials and thereby have a more sustainable impact while also retaining the product quality and style that customers expect. Many key sustainability initiatives are related to fashion, with the goal to change the perception that the fashion industry is fast and unsustainable.

Manor’s sustainability activities are equally focussed on its food products. One of its longest-established programmes is the ‘Local’ label in the food section. Customers are very positive toward this, and it appears they are willing to make an active choice for food that is produced locally. As explained by Stefanie Schmid: “At Manor Food, we support the producers of our regions through our ‘Local’ programme. It has been successfully running for over 20 years and is a source of great pride for us”. For a supplier to reach the ‘local’ label, they must be located within a radius of thirty kilometers from the store. For Manor Food this includes over 700 suppliers and a range of approximately 2000 products: mostly fruits, vegetables, cheese, and wine, also other products like eggs, honey, cold cuts, or beer.

Additionally, the company also has the private label ‘Manor Bio’. Food products that carry this label must hold a certain bio certification and come from fully controlled organic farms, preferably in Switzerland. Manor recently started offering many of its ‘Bio’ products on ‘Farmy’, a fast-growing Swiss online food marketplace.

One of its most recent projects in this area focusses on increasing awareness of food waste and its negative impacts. For this project, Manor collaborates with the ‘Too Good To Go’ initiative. By using their app, customers can purchase surprise bags of food that are near their expiry date, thereby saving their from going to waste. “This cooperation enables both companies to promote awareness of the food waste problem in Switzerland, and inspire consumers to fight together against food waste!”, says Alina Swirski, Country Manager, Switzerland, at Too Good To Go. During a 100-day trial at Basel, Lugano, and Lausanne stores, the surprise bags were mostly sold shortly after they were made available. As a result, customers managed to save 18,743 meals at Manor Food stores, and it was estimated that for this trial period alone the project saved as much carbon dioxide as a plane would emit in 10 trips around the world. The partnership extends to developing a long-term programme for 21 of its supermarkets.

Manor Food is currently developing a similar programme for its Manora restaurants. This initiative is expected to be a combination of the previous project to minimise food waste, and the use of reusable ‘ReCircle’ packaging to eliminate single-use plastic packaging. Asked what she would recommend to other food retailers, Schmid chooses to emphasise the importance of a local supply network: “A sustainable food programme is definitely a local one, not just regional but truly local”. Customers clearly appreciate this, Manor often offers free tastings by local farmers in its stores, putting a face to the producers and developing a relationship between them. At the same time, Schmid highlights the diversity of its products: “Our flagship store in Geneva offers something truly international for the city’s multicultural residents. Surely we can meet everybody’s taste”.

* Shahrzad Saffari is a candidate of MBA at Webster University.
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