Interview with Peter Cooke: Making Grocery More Sustainable

Peter Cooke is a program manager at the Manomet Center and the leader of the Grocery Stewardship Certification, which helps supermarkets and grocers address sustainability metrics like water use and carbon emissions.

 

Cooke is speaking at the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 pm. He will discuss the grocery industry’s environmental impact and the steps that stores can take to reduce their footprint.

 

For more information about Cooke’s presentation, click here.

 


 

You recently visited Texas for a supermarket industry conference. What was the hottest sustainability topic being discussed there?

 

Peter Cooke: The conference was for a large grocery cooperative that has about 40 grocery retail chains as owner/members. The hot topic was food waste and how to divert the food waste generated to beneficial uses. Those uses – in order of importance – included food bank donations, animal feed, industrial uses like anaerobic digestion to produce energy and composting operations.

 

 

What are the most promising or exciting trends in grocery sustainability right now?

 

Cooke: The most exciting trends are the ones we discussed in Texas, regarding food waste. It is incredibly important; up to 40 percent of all produce is wasted.

 

Another promising trend is sustainable produce. Research has shown that 81 percent of families are now buying organic at least sometimes. Organic production is up 240 percent since 2002, compared to a 3 percent increase in non-organic production. Organic sales are expected to increase 14 percent per year for the next 5 years.

 

Awareness of health aspects associated with fresh produce has doubled since 2004. Sales of blueberries alone have doubled since 2008.

 

Another exciting trend in grocery sustainability is employee engagement. Research has shown improved productivity and higher job satisfaction rates from employees who have an opportunity to engage in environmental or social aspects of the job or with businesses that prioritize corporate social responsibility.

 

 

What is on the horizon for the Grocery Stewardship Certification?

 

Cooke: We are about to announce the full participation of another chain of 165 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Grocery retailers are becoming more aware of the Manomet program. Currently over 20 grocery retail chains are considering enrolling in the GSC. We hope to engage as many grocery chains as possible because this business sector has such an opportunity to move society to more sustainable practices.

 


 

Click here for more information about the Grocery Stewardship Certification and how you can support green grocers.

 

Cooke on a grocery store walk-through in Chelmsford, MA