JTI UK’s guide on how to become a sustainable wholesaler – Part 4: Social & Ethical Performance

Paul Hill recently spoke to JTI UK about its work within the wholesale sector and in particular its focus on sustainability. Alongside its own efforts to globally become carbon neutral by 2030 and Net Zero by 2050, JTI UK has been supporting wholesalers to implement sustainable practices and has conducted a number of projects with wholesalers across the UK over the past 18 months.

The aim throughout this series is to help wholesalers in four key areas within sustainability: Energy, Waste Management, Transport, and Social & Ethical performance. JTI UK will be sharing its knowledge on all four and with that will come actionable advice and information that wholesalers will be able to take and implement within their operations.

For part four of the series, JTI UK, as well as the Federation of Wholesale Distributors will support wholesalers on social sustainability; advising wholesalers on the key actions they can implement within their businesses, relating to community activity.

Social sustainability is an important part of JTI UK’s responsible business approach. The company is committed to addressing social and environmental challenges within the communities in which it operates. JTI works in long-term partnerships with charities which promote inclusion for less-advantaged adults or protect the environment; and employees are encouraged to get involved too.

Volunteering is embedded in the company’s culture and in 2022, JTI relaunched its Volunteering Policy. This included increasing their employee volunteering allowance to 50 hours (6 days+) per employee, per year, and empowering employees to choose their own organisations to support.

Since 2008, JTI UK has donated £40 million to charitable causes, and in that same period, JTI UK employees have volunteered 37,687 hours of their time to help others, contributing to their local communities whilst developing valuable skills to take back to the workplace. This is equivalent to one member of staff working for a charity full time for over 18 years.

A 2021 JTI UK wholesaler survey on sustainability found that:

  • 93% of wholesalers view sustainability as a priority for their business and want more support from suppliers

  • The most popular sustainability initiative currently being carried out by wholesalers is recycling (98.1%)

  • 64% of independent/convenience retailers want more sustainable Point of Sale Material (POSM).

JTI UK’s three tips for being more socially sustainable:
Communicate – with customers and key stakeholders to research the most pressing community issues
Collaborate – with expert partners and co-create initiatives to tackle key social issues
Share – spread the word to encourage more people to get involved and work together

Three ways wholesalers can be more socially sustainable:
Impact measurement – set targets, it’s vital to understand the difference you are making
Employee engagement – your programme is more likely to be a success if your employees are behind it
Making changes – don’t be afraid to try new things to improve your sustainability performance.

JTI UK expert viewpoint: 
Tim Heathorn, Wholesale Convenience & Gas Sector Manager, JTI UK

“At JTI, Community Investment is an important part of our sustainable business approach. As a company, we contribute to the communities in which we operate, and we are committed to addressing social and environmental challenges. We believe that everyone should have access to resources and the opportunity to reach their potential. Our worldwide Community Investment programmes are designed to support inclusive and resilient societies.

In the UK, we work on a long-term basis with charitable organisations who share our aims by supporting projects that improve the environment and promote social inclusion as well as access to services, adult learning, the digital world and the arts. We also provide volunteering and fundraising opportunities for our employees, enabling them to use and develop their skills for the benefit of their local communities.

It can be hard to address change head on, but wholesalers are the link between suppliers and retailers, and so have a large network of people who they can team up with to make positive change. Remember you don’t have to go it alone, collaborate with expert partners who can co-create initiatives to tackle key social issues.”

Alistair Vant, Wholesale Convenience & Gas Regional Manager, JTI UK

“Over the years, JTI UK’s wholesale partners have been hugely supportive of our Community Investment programme. Wholesalers have generously made donations to support our fundraising efforts and have even joined us on fundraising challenges. JTI teams across the country recently took part in a 10 mile walk to raise £100,000 for our charitable partner – my team took on a challenging route in the Surrey Hills which was a great way to build relationships with colleagues whilst supporting a good cause.”

Industry expert viewpoint:
David Visick, director of communications, Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD)

“The wholesale channel is intrinsically entwined with the communities it serves, through convenience stores, local pubs and restaurant, and of course vital services like care homes, hospitals and schools. Whatever those communities want, we deliver, and as the public’s attitudes drift towards sustainability, so do our members.

We don’t expect to see wholesalers using the economic crisis to let standards slip, and we don’t think their customers would let them anyway. The emphasis on ethical and local sourcing will continue, as will the responsible approach to reducing waste and distribution emissions. In some cases, such as public sector contracts, the drive towards higher standards just won’t be achievable without further investment from Government. There’s a balancing act here, between setting achievable goals, or giving food distributors the support they need to raise standards higher and faster.

Boosting social mobility has been steadily climbing up the corporate agenda for the last few years, with the intention of ‘levelling up’ opportunities for those from all backgrounds. The message is simple enough: widen your net. Rethink entry criteria. Is a degree really necessary for the position? What about alternative qualifications? How about hard graft and work experience?”

For more information on what JTI is doing to improve its environmental and social sustainability, wholesalers can talk to their JTI Business Adviser or visit www.jti.com/uk/sustainability.
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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 07960935659.


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