‘Bag’ging to go green from the retail store (Part I)

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‘If selling is my profession, I make sure that the products that I sell are carried, handled and delivered conveniently, keeping the customer king happy always.’

All those in the business of retail would believe and say so. However, ironically, all of them are aware that under the ‘customer convenience’ cover they are largely violating an essential part of the society’s environmental code, even as they admit that the ubiquitous carrybag and such other packaging material inside the store constitute a ‘real environment hazard’.

Indiaretailing tried to understand some retail majors’ stand on the less-talked-about issue of environment-friendly initiatives, primarily the use of paper/environment-friendly bags to sell goods. Most of them agreed polythene bags are not conducive, but insist there are not many alternatives for the same. At the same time, all of them do have future plans and are exploring possibilities to replace polybags.

Retailers on ‘green’ bags Speaking to Indiaretailing, Rajan Malhotra, CEO, Big Bazaar, said, “We understand that polybags should not be promoted, but we hardly have an alternative. For instance, paper bags cannot be used to carry 5-10 kilograms of rice or sugar.”

So, why are smaller, easy-to-carry items also sold in a polybag, or why customers not wanting a polybag are also forced to take one at Big Bazaar? To this, Malhotra said the company will soon have paper bags for smaller items, and, besides, looking at the stringent norms of certain states, they will have to use them in any case. Malhotra also assured that he would instruct all Big Bazaar outlets to not force polybags upon customers and to issue these only at customers’ discretion.

Answering a query if the company would welcome NGOs’ (who involve street children and women in making bags out of waste material) proposal to make bags for them, Malhotra spoke in affirmation and said, “Such initiatives are always welcome, as they are part of our corporate social responsibility.”

Vikas Bagga of M&B Footwear also agreed on the same note, saying, “Though the company has been in the process of introducing trendy bags that go with the brand’s theme, we are also exploring possibilities of introducing paper bags.” Bagga said that the company would welcome NGOs’ and other organisations’ proposals to create such bags for them as such a move would be part of the company’s larger social responsibility, towards not just the environment but also the under-privileged.

When Indiaretailing quizzed Lalit Kumar of Vishal Retail, he, too, cited his own reason for not being able to avoid the use of polybags, while also confirming that they would introduce ‘green’ bags in the future. He expressed appreciation for the proposal to use NGO-produced bags in stores.

On the face of it, although most of the Indian buyers do not seem much expressive or conscious about the environment, it may be noted here that some multinationals, including the major fashion and lifestyle retailers, have stopped the use of polybags and introduced trendy paper/jute/cotton-made bags that are carried to make a fashion statement.

– By Ranjan Kaplish
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‘Bag’ging to go green from the retail store (Final part)

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