Marks and Spencer's former CEO Stuart Rose is to advise Brazil's largest retailer on how it can use technology to implement a better sustainable development agenda, similar to that of 'Plan A'.
The UK retailer's Plan A initiative was launched in 2007 and outlines 180 commitments that it hopes to achieve by 2015. These include tackling climate change, reducing waste, sourcing sustainable raw materials, dealing with health and also working towards being a fair partner.
Hugo Bethlem, executive vice president at Brazilian retailer Pao du Acucar, came across Plan A at the Retail World Congress in Berlin last year, where Marks and Spencer beat his company for the most sustainable retailer award.
“We lost to Marks and Spencer and I was not happy about it. I don't like to lose. Immediately I said that if they are better than us I want to learn from them,” said Bethlem.
“I contacted Stuart Rose and he is going to work as our advisor. I want him to tell us how he implemented Plan A and made it a success; I want our own Plan A.”
He added: “Technology will play a very important part in this. I also like what he said to us – he told us that sustainability is profitable, but you need to invest now to collect the returns later.”
Pao de Acucar has already taken steps to improve its sustainability programme by recently implementing SAP's cloud tool, Carbon Impact OnDemand. It implemented the tool at the end of 2011 and began to measure its carbon use shortly after.
“The main reason to implement the tool is of course economic, but you have a value change that goes from an economic reason to a sustainable reason. If you do it this way everyone in the business will be engaged,” said Bethlem.
“We need to balance our mandatory emissions, such as emissions from our delivery trucks, with voluntary emissions, such as executive travel. We may need to invest more in video conferencing, for example.”
He added: “The company won't improve if we don't measure the results and set targets. We need to do this to reduce emissions and expenses, by reducing our use of water, energy and gas.”
Pao de Acucar's sustainable development committee is meeting in June to set goals for carbon reduction over the next year. Bethlem said that the SAP tool cost it around £100,000, and the company expects to see a return on the investment within the year.
“It is a separate tool from our back-office SAP systems, operating in the cloud, so there wasn't a big integration process. We export the data, it is treated, and then comes back in-house," he said.