The food and grocery sector embarked recently on two initiatives that promise benefits far into the future.

Health & safety and sustainability have for many years been at the forefront of companies’ thinking. Most can point to work they’ve done and are continuing to do around projects that promote the wellbeing and safety of both staff and customers, and tackling waste along the supply chain.

The health & safety initiative is called ShopCare, and it aims to improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of all employees involved in the creation, supply, delivery, and sale of all goods on supermarket, dairy, and retail shelves.

It includes senior leaders from retailers, manufacturers, transporters, and suppliers who will share knowledge, problem-solve, and model leadership behaviours to help influence cultural change and save lives across the industry.

ShopCare is led by Liz May, a former GM Logistics at Countdown, and was formed after the Food & Grocery Council won funding from ACC.

In its first 12 months, ShopCare will gather health & safety data from the retail and supply chain sector to build a picture, alongside other data, of where the industry is at. This will be a first for health and safety reporting in New Zealand, and it’s something the sector should be really excited about.

It’s job is to identify key risk areas in transport, mobile plant and equipment, manual handling, in-store, health & wellbeing, leadership, and manufacturing, address the issue of overlapping responsibilities between companies along the supply chain, and agree on a common language and terminology so everyone’s ‘talking the same language’. That’s something that’s not often recognised, but it’s crucial to achieving the right outcomes, especially in an area as important as this.

ShopCare will also work with organisations to identify best practice, provide opportunities for education and knowledge sharing, and align health and safety processes and systems.

I believe ShopCare will form a blueprint other industries will want to copy.

Sustainability has, in recent years, gained real momentum, with most companies devoting considerable time and money to finding new ways of reducing waste and processes that are friendlier on the planet, and the food and grocery sector is doing ground-breaking work in this regard.

We all know supermarkets are doing a lot, including eliminating single-use plastic bags, using recyclable meat trays, diverting waste from landfill, using energy-efficient refrigeration systems, and developing processes for recycling and recovering plastics.

So too are food and grocery suppliers, with many introducing recyclable and compostable packaging, and water recycling and energy-efficiency into their operations.

In an effort to capture and share some of these great ideas across the sector, FGC has established a Sustainability Committee of member companies.

In just a short space of time, we’ve had incredible support, with 20 companies represented at senior level all eager to be a part of it.

The group has completed a robust review of the issues facing the industry and will first tackle the huge issue of consumer packaging and the circular economy. This work will take on packaging and the role it plays, single-use plastics, and food waste. Most importantly, it will incorporate work towards a New Zealand standard for compostable packaging.

Four sub-committees have been established to cover plastic packaging, paper packaging, beverage containers/container deposit systems, and compostable packaging.

They welcome any FGC members interested in being on one of the sub-committees. And why wouldn’t you want to be part of more ground-breaking work to come out of our industry to go along with the health & safety data collection.