There's no getting away from CSR...September 2013
It wasn’t meant to be a busman’s holiday but once inveigled in the world of CSR there is no escape it seems.
My summer destination this year was Brittany, a part of France I’d not visited since I was child. For most of the time I oohed and ahhed over all the things that my parents had delighted in all those years ago – which I, at the time, had mocked (as did my children to me – a traditional Breton festival deemed to be “meh”. Plus ça change… )
While my laptop was safely under lock and key and WIFI (the French keep the abbreviation but pronounce it, rather charmingly ‘wiffy’) practically non-existent, my eyes couldn’t help but be attracted to all things CSR.
The first part of the journey was by Euroshuttle – where huge posters reminded me that I was crossing the Channel with the most environmentally friendly cross-Channel operator.
The Channel Tunnel and its rail transport system have a number of environmental advantages: a fully underground link that prevents any interaction with the marine environment; electric locomotives that generate a low level of atmospheric pollution and only marginal greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately it is also rather good value, takes only 30 minutes and is eminently suitable for those whose sea legs deserted them for life after a particularly rough P&O experience (reminiscent of that early scene in the recent Life of Pi movie).
Apart from the daily trip to the ‘poubelles’ and recycling centre at the camp, one company’s CSR policy was regularly before my eyes. Bret’s is a local crisp manufacturer which trumpets it corporate and citizen engagement policy on its packaging.
As one munches, one learns that it partners with 200 Breton farmers to ensure quality, traceability and to reduce the overworking of agricultural land. The brand specializes in lots of interesting flavours including locally inspired ones like Marine (oyster-y) and Caramel au Beurre Salé (sweet and savoury at the same time, bizarre but moreish) but this is countered with its nutritional commitment that it uses 100% sunflower oil, no preservatives, no artificial colouring and no flavour enhancers. The on pack copy also promotes its approach to the ecological impact of its products and its use of water. It also flew the flag for low food miles, which has become another preoccupation of mine.
Unfortunately Bret’s approach is not yet standard practice as we are all too aware. The local supermarket did in fact – and rather ironically – sell garlic from Argentina (which I nobly shunned for the local, distinctly purple variety which was three times the price). It did redeem itself however by selling the most wonderful local strawberries and of course its total lack of free plastic carrier bags.
This is one green initiative that the French have well and truly embraced. Plastic carrier bag use actually rose in the UK last year. Why we’ve not followed Wales, NI and Scotland for charging for the darn things is beyond me. Roll on EU legislation for a EU wide levy on plastic bags. It’s one of the relatively small steps that can make a big, big difference.
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