Kroger’s Dillon Cites Sustainability Progress

COLORADO SPRINGS - Kroger Co’s sustainability efforts are being fueled by recent gains, but the company is taking a careful approach by embracing only those initiatives that appear to have real substance, said David Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati-based retailer.

COLORADO SPRINGS - Kroger Co. [4]’s sustainability efforts are being fueled by recent gains, but the company is taking a careful approach by embracing only those initiatives that appear to have real substance, said David Dillon [5], chairman and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati-based retailer.

“We are absolutely committed to only doing things that are real, not just nice marketing,” Dillon told attendees at the Grocery Manufacturers Association Executive Conference here. “We want to do things that our customers will see as meaningful and transparent and will believe in us as a result.”

Dillon said over the past 10 years Kroger has reduced energy use in stores on a per-square-foot basis by 30%, “which for us is gigantic.”

He also pointed to a big reduction in food waste, citing perishable product that would previously have been discarded but is now increasingly going to food banks.

Other secondary areas of progress include LEED certification of stores, reduced energy and waste in manufacturing plants, and solar and wind projects, he said.

Kroger's strategy includes “moving sustainability to a more collaborative process by working with suppliers,” Dillon explained.

He participated on a panel at the conference that also included Lee McIntire, chairman and CEO, CH2M Hill, and Greg Page, chairman and CEO, Cargill.

Dillon said Kroger's future direction in sustainability “is very tactical by moving sustainability into a more collaborative process working with suppliers to bring products to market using less truck miles or packaging, or with other sustainable methods. That's clearly the next logical step for us.” Dillon added, “Many of the people we have today at Kroger got us to where we are now.

The [30% energy savings] came from our existing engineer groups. We didn't bring in some gurus to do it, they did it themselves.”