As Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean event comes to a close, Nick Brown, head of sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners, tells RN how retailers got involved to make their communities tidier

RN How many retailers participated in this year’s event? 

NB Following the dispatch of more than 450 requested litter picking kits to our customers, we’re thrilled to have enabled around 2,100 litter picking hours. Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) also hosted 28 clean-up events across Great Britain with more than 300 of our employees taking part, resulting in the collection of 517 bags of litter and recycling. We hope our efforts went some way to helping Keep Britain Tidy achieving its 2019 Great British Spring Clean (GBSC) goal.

RN How successful was the Great British Spring Clean and how does this compare to other years? 

NB It has been the most impactful campaign to date. Keep Britain Tidy successfully hit its target of engaging more than half a million volunteers. This resulted in the collection of almost a million bags of rubbish and recycling across England, Wales and Scotland, a third more than 2018. The support from media and consumer activity on social media dramatically increased the awareness of the campaign, which no doubt compelled more people to come together to clean up the litter in their local towns, villages, countryside and beaches.

RN Why is it important for retailers to be sustainable and what advice do you have for them? 

NB Sustainability is high on the public agenda, as is caring for the communities that people live in. As hubs of their communities with unique relationships with their customers, retailers are well placed to engage shoppers on initiatives like the Great British Spring Clean, but by being more sustainable, retailers can also give their store a point of difference that is good for business and the environment. 

Areas to consider include making their business as climate-friendly as possible by using electricity from renewable sources, switching to HFC chillers and thinking about how their stock is delivered to their store. Retailers should also look at their ranging decisions. For example, are they stocking products that can be easily recycled and do they offer products that contain low or zero sugar.

Finally, it’s important to communicate. Retailers need to tell their customers what they are doing, whether this is through in-store materials or via social media channels. To help retailers do this, we have created new in-store PoS to encourage shoppers to recycle their drinks packaging and remind them that all of our plastic bottles are 100% recyclable. 

The PoS kit includes A4 posters, barkers, wobblers, cooler vinyls and shelf strips with the message ‘drink it, love it, recycle it’ alongside images of some of our most well-loved brands – Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Fanta and Glacéau Smartwater. The kits can be requested at cokecustomerhub.co.uk

RN What are Coca-Cola’s thoughts on sustainability in other areas affecting retailers such as bottle returns?

NB From our experiences in other countries, we know that well-designed deposit return schemes (DRS) can have a positive impact on recycling and reduce the littering of drinks packaging. We think a well-designed scheme in Great Britain can achieve the same. 

It goes without saying that any scheme will need to be well thought through and we think
that the best approach is for all producers and retailers to work together in a single scheme covering the whole of the UK and that it should be run by a not-for-profit organisation. 

Last year, we set out our vision for a well-designed DRS in the UK, with 11 clearly defined principles based on discussions with suppliers and customers, industry and recyclers. 

Coca-Cola operates in more than 200 countries worldwide, some of which operate smart and effective schemes already, and we believe that we can implement a similar system here in the UK.

RN Why is the Great British Spring Clean so important, and what are potential benefits and reasons for retailers to get involved in future events? 

NB Sustainability, recycling and protecting the environment are more important than ever before and are becoming a priority for an increasing number of people. 

Many people are looking for ways to recycle more and initiatives like the Great British Spring Clean are a fantastic way to bring communities together to clean up their local area and make a real difference. 

As well as protecting the planet for future generations, clean-ups can be great fun and provide retailers with the opportunity to engage and build relationships with their local community, many of which will be shoppers in their stores.