Kingfisher has been one of the front runners in transforming its business into a more circular business. The focus? Smarter consumption and get 'more from less'.
Create less waste
Retail Detail had an exclusive interview with Caroline Laurie, Head of Sustainability of the Kingfisher group that has several large DIY-chains in its portfolio, operating around 1200 stores (store brands such as B&Q, Castorama or Brico Depot) and omnichannel operations in 10 European countries.
According to Laurie, Kingfisher has been integrating circular economy principles into product design for many years, working with partners including Bioregional and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. "We focus on solutions that reflect growing customer interest in smarter consumption, and product ranges or services that help customers and our business to get more from less, reuse or use longer. Most people have never heard of the circular economy but they know they want quality products that are long-lasting, create less waste and are easy to recycle."
Kingfisher has established a number of design principles (in collaboration with experts from Bioregional). ''These principles help our product developers and suppliers integrate circular design principles into our products and supply chains in a way that is good for customers and for our business", Laurie says.
Kingfisher's principles focus on six so-called impact areas: safe materials for humans and nature, sustainable materials that are easily and widely recycled, reused or renewed, utility and function, including efficient use of materials and design for longevity and reuse, energy and carbon, focusing on reducing fossil fuel energy use, water stewardship and ethical responsibility, including fair and safe working conditions in the supply chain.
Laurie states that the assessment process is rigorous, and products must be widely available to customers, and not in pilot phase. To date there are only two product ranges on sale that meet Kingfisher's criteria: easyGrow and Pro Grow. "Our green pallets initiative at B&Q, which reuses and recycles pallets used to deliver our products, also meets the requirements of our criteria."
With its easyGrow technology, Kingfisher has eliminated polystyrene from the 140,000 bedding plants sold by B&Q each year. "We replaced it with recycled PET plastic that can be easily recycled again and again. We also swapped peat for more sustainable coir, a by-product from the coconut industry.
Completing the cycle
In 2016, Kingfisher launched Pro Grow garden compost, in partnership with waste management company Veolia. Pro Grow is made from garden waste collected from UK households and turned into a peat-free rich compost. "This in turn is used to nurture new plants in our customers’ gardens completing the circle."
The green pallet initiative was developed by B&Q and Scott Pallets, Europe’s leading manufacturer and supplier of new and reconditioned pallets, recovery and reuse schemes. "The pallets are produced from certifiable timber sources and can be reused. They are shipped by Scott Pallets to B&Q’s domestic, European and international suppliers, who use them to deliver their stock to B&Q stores. The empty pallets are sent back to Scott’s to be reconditioned and sent back to suppliers for more deliveries."
For 2020, Kingfisher has set the goal to have at least 1000 products (out of 40.000) on the shelf that would comply with the aforementioned design principles. Kingfisher labels these products as so-called closed loop items. The company has made a short list of 90 items, mostly products under it Eco-range, which are eligible for a 'closed loop make over'. In order to determine and monitor the 'circularity factor and potential' of its products, the company has developed a Close Loop Calculator. According to Kingfisher, a measuring/quantifying tool is critical in closing the loop.
A telling example of closed loop product is Infinite from Castorama, one of France's largest DIY-chains. Together with Veolia, Océwood (composite manufacturer) and Belgian Certech (research centre) Castorama designed a work top for kitchens and bathrooms, made out of waste wood from its stores and end-of-life DIY products.
Not only restricted to products
According to Castorama, Infinite is not only a circular product concept, it also claims that is a superior product, offering its customers a better deal. In its sustainability report, Kingfisher claims the material is 30 per cent lighter than similar products on the market today and so is easier to handle and install, thereby reducing breakages. Where traditional particle boards are often damaged by steam and surface water, Infinite has a wood composite structure that is more water resistant.
Laurie adds: "We’re not restricting our work to products. Often a service can be just as good or better for customers and have a lower impact than the product it replaces. We actively encourage innovation including new services and business models." As for services, Kingfisher's retail formulas have been active in repair and rental services. The retailer recognizes that new business models have emerged with the emphasis on sharing and/or bartering. By engaging actively, the retailer aims to be part of a circular economy.