WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — With the exception of Wal-Mart Stores, there has been little collaboration between consumer product companies and retailers when it comes to sustainability projects, according to a study released here during the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association Executive Conference. That is expected to change, however, as consumers and other constituencies demand sustainable measures from the food distribution industry. The study, "Sustainability: Balancing Opportunity and Risk in the Consumer Products Industry," is the first of three studies on the issue commissioned by the food, beverage and consumer products association. Nick Handrinos, principal, Deloitte Consulting, which conducted the study surveying 26 retailers and manufacturers, said Wal-Mart's collaborative packaging efforts are not an issue of the company exercising its leverage, but one of operating reality. "The issue here isn't Wal-Mart turning around and demanding. The issue here is a broader opportunity to do something which makes sense across a number of dimensions which are very tough to balance," he said in a response to a question. Sustainability initiatives can often be at odds with manufacturers' goals to stimulate consumption, he added. With 17% of today's consumers said to be "green motivated," Handrinos said, the industry should be asking what it can do to make consumers guilt-free when they weight their consumption against a sustainable environment.
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