The Jakarta Post had this interesting tidbit of news a few days ago: “This year, minimarket chain Indomart is targeting to open 750 new outlets while its main competitor Alfamart plans to open 600 new outlets. ” This is happening while hypermarkets continue an aggressive expansion across the archipelago, with Carrefour Indonesia (40% market share in the hypermarket segment) planning to give the country 20 new outlets each year.
So if you’re working for an environmental NGO, why exactly is this worth stopping to think about?
Convenience shopping carries a rather mammoth footprint with it. Every additional retail outlet that opens represents new transport journeys for distributors, which creates additional traffic and polluting emissions. Add to this energy use to air-condition and light large spaces. Then you have the products themselves, packaged in styrofoam and other plastic material—and we all know where this packaging will end up (hint: not in a sanitary landfill).
If we look beyond the employment opportunities and added convenience that more retailers will offer to Indonesia, one thing is clear: unchecked and unmanaged, their impact will be felt in the air that we breathe and the water we use to wash ourselves.
And here is the opportunity for environmentalists and retailers: crafting alliances to collaborate on energy use optimization, waste reduction and consumer awareness. This will ensure that as we see more supermarkets around us, our living environment does not suffer from it.
For progressive companies, this means working with NGOs to source food products locally as much as possible, reduce superfluous and polluting packaging, and most essentially, educate customers through green marketing and work with them to reduce their environmental impact.
Because of their centralized structure, companies such as Carrefour and Hypermart lend themselves well to implementing environmental measures that will be replicated at a national scale. Some NGOs may balk at the prospect of working with big corporations—but it may offer the best chance of delivering large-scale actions that will limit the environmental impact of modern shopping.