How a leading UK supermarket launched a zero-waste store

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Danielle Crompton is an OYW Ambassador passionate about creating sustainable solutions. In the past few years, she has worked with UK supermarket chain Waitrose to implement several sustainability initiatives, including building a zero waste concept store in Oxford that has since expanded across the country. Danielle spoke about her journey at the 2019 Summit in London.

Danielle's Story

Back in 2012 when I attended the One Young World summit in Pittsburgh, I knew I was passionate about climate change because it made me angry. And I always think if something makes you angry, it demonstrates that you really care about it.

The issue was that I hadn’t yet figured out the best way to turn my passion (or anger) into action.

At the summit, I met so many inspirational people. People who had started up their own social enterprises in the developing world from scratch or pioneered these big campaigns - like one incredible speaker who had devised a plan to walk to the South Pole to protest against climate change!

By comparison, my achievements were nowhere near as impressive! I was essentially an enthusiastic amateur when it came to the environment. Refusing straws and banging on about recycling and refilling water bottles. (In 2012, this was considered more hippie than heroic!).  However, being at the summit triggered a really important phase of soul searching for me. I started to realise that being an eco-warrior in how I lived my life, wasn’t going to have the level of impact I wanted to have. I wanted to go bigger. I wanted to think up an amazing business idea that would help the planet and society. I wanted to create a campaign that would galvanize thousands of people.

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Turns out, I am not an ideas person. But, through being passionate and working hard, I did get a good reputation as someone who just gets stuff done. That became my mantra. And my mission became challenging organisations from the inside to think seriously about the environment and get stuff done.

In the company I was working for at the time, I galvanized like minded ‘eco warriors’ from around the business. We influenced some behavioural changes in head office such as reducing single use coffee cups and improving recycling.

But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more.

One of the things I care about is plastic pollution. So I brought together a group of One Young World Ambassadors from London and started leading a One Young World Plastics Focus Group. We set ourselves the mission of raising awareness of plastic pollution and nudging One Young World internally to reduce single-use plastic at their summits. I’m delighted that this summit is single-use plastic free.

Shortly after, I was really fortunate to get a job at Waitrose & Partners in their sustainability team. And this gave me the platform I needed to go really big.

Earlier this year I launched Plan Plastic: The Million Pound Challenge. I took £1million from the sale of carrier bags, and gave grants to five projects dealing with the causes and impact of plastic waste. One winning projects was a way to prevent fishing nets going astray. It’s thought 640,000 tonnes of nets are lost in the oceans every year, so it’s a simple idea that I saw for myself could make a big difference.

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Photo courtesy of Waitrose

I then started working on a project called Waitrose Unpacked -  something which I have been living and breathing since February. We took more than 200 products out of packaging in one of our Oxford shops and turned it into a sort of zero waste concept store. Customers can bring their own containers and filling up pastas, cereals, dried fruit, washing up liquid etc from dispensers. The reaction has been incredible and we have now rolled out the test to 3 more shops.

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Photo courtesy of the Grocer

Most of us here work for some of the world’s largest companies, and that privilege comes with great responsibility. We have the capacity to leverage our roles to build a business case for better practices, policies and products. There has been nothing more rewarding than pursuing my passions at my company – so I challenge you to do the same, whether it be climate related or not. Senior leaders these days want answers to these major problems, so provide them just like I did – I know you can. 

You can connect with Danielle here.