China Sustainable retail | WWF
 
	© WWF China

Chain reaction

China’s biggest retailers are pushing for sustainability through their supply chains, and raising awareness among their customers.
China is home to one in five people on Earth, and consumption is growing rapidly. Ultimately, what happens in China will make or break our hopes of living within the limits of one planet. But for many of the 1.3 billion consumers and hundreds of thousands of small businesses, sustainability is low on the agenda. How can we even begin to create the changes needed on such a scale?

The China Sustainable Retail Roundtable (CSRR), a partnership between WWF and the China Chain Store and Franchise Association (CCFA), could be part of the answer. Through the roundtable, launched in March 2013, China’s biggest retailers and producers of consumer goods have committed themselves to leading the Chinese market toward sustainability.

“By working with China’s largest retailers, we have an opportunity to engage with a very broad number of suppliers and producers of key commodities such as seafood, paper and timber products,” says Zhonghao Jin, Director Market Transformation at WWF’s Beijing office. “It also allows us to target consumers, especially middle-class consumers, to promote sustainable consumption and energy efficiency. WWF will engage with more associations in China this year to reach out on a large scale to retailers and consumers.”
 

Strategic partnership

The roundtable grew out of WWF and CCFA’s ongoing strategic partnership. “The CCFA is a very powerful and influential trade association, with close links to the Ministry of Commerce,” explains Zhonghao Jin. “Engaging with them has enabled us to create a chain reaction to scale up better practices.” 

WWF and CCFA established the roundtable with 13 companies, which together represent more than 12,000 stores and, more than RMB580 billion (€80 billion) retail sales value. Members include China’s largest supermarket chains China Resources Vanguard, and Taiwan-based hypermarket giant RT-Mart, as well as the Chinese branches of well-known multinationals such as Walmart, Carrefour, METRO, AEON, H&M and IKEA. Other relevant organisations are involved as observers. They include the Chinese soy and seafood trade associations, FMCG producers such as P&G, Tetra Pak, NGOs such as Solidaridad,  credible certification schemes such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), ISEAL Alliance, the global association for sustainable standards, and the Renmin University of China.

Members of the roundtable have committed to integrating sustainability into their business strategies. Sustainable supply chains do not just appear overnight however, and an important role of the CSRR will be to work with suppliers to promote and facilitate responsible production. 

 

Sustainable consumption

As well as influencing producers, the roundtable also wants to raise awareness among consumers. In September 2013, it held the first national Sustainable Consumption Week (SCW), which is intended to become an annual event. For the 3rd round of the SCW, which took place in August 2015, over 600 outlets owned by CSRR members in 93 cities across China took part, and the event received widespread coverage in the national media. Stores joined the main 4 topics including Fish for Future---Sustainable Seafood Week jointly with MSC China, Small package, Big impact – Sustainable packaging event jointly with Tetra Pak, and energy relevant topics jointly with Top10, and China National Institute of Standardisation. Together with CCFA and CAPPMA (the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance) WWF also launched the first Responsible Aquatic Products Sourcing Catalogue.

“Our members are increasingly committed to take up a constructive role in creating a healthy business model”, says Dr. Liang PEI, Secretary General of CCFA.

“Running an event of this magnitude would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago,” says Zhonghao Jin. “It’s allowed us to raise public awareness and reach consumers on a much larger scale than we could ever have imagined. Add that to the roundtable members’ ability to lead transformation within supply chains and the retail sector, and we have a powerful force for change.” 

Better Production for a Living Planet Series

 
	© WWF MTI
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CSRR is exactly the platform we need to gather retailers’ and suppliers’ work on sharing best management practices to promote industrial sustainable development, and to guide green consuming habits. 

RT-MART commits to deliver the concept into our market, and to comprehensively combine with producers and brands to promote the concept of a green and environmental lifestyle to consumers and build a green homeland.”

Yongfang Jiang CEO, RT-Mart

WWF Targets

By 2020, 30 large Chinese companies in the retail, real estate, seafood, hotel, flooring and pulp & paper sectors have joined the China Sustainable Retail Roundtable (CSRR) and commit to responsible sourcing policies.  Leading Chinese retailers commit to responsible sourcing both globally and in priority places of high conservation value (HCV), and participate in energy efficient and low-carbon activities.

Members include GOME, one of China’s largest Electronic appliance chains; JD.com, the largest online grocery; and Lianhua and China Resources Vanguard. Other members include hypermarket giant RT-Mart and multinational groups such as Walmart, Carrefour, METRO, AEON, H&M and IKEA, as well as high-end supermarket Cityshop and department store Rainbow.

 

Progress

In collaboration with the CCFA, WWF initiated the China Sustainable Retail Roundtable (CSRR) in March 2013, a voluntary, non-profit, multi-stakeholder initiative of (currently) 13 large retailers and producers of consumer goods, NGOs and academic institutions who commit to promote sustainable retail business for larger environmental, economic and social benefits.

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	© CSRR
    Through the China Sustainable Retail Roundtable (CSRR), China’s biggest retailers and producers of consumer goods have committed themselves to leading the Chinese market toward sustainability.
     

Markets

  • China (domestic) and global.

Context

  • Threats 
    • Rapid industrialization, urbanization, intensified agriculture
    • Increased consumption
    • Increased resource depletion and ecological footprint

    Opportunities 
    • Sustainable production and consumption of key commodities that will optimize the social and economic benefits of environmental protection

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