Rodrigo Benet
Director of Planning Strategy and Communication
View from the Top

Supermarket Giant Promotes Sustainability Benefits

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 14:39

Companies today are increasingly realizing the potential of sustainability in many of their business practices, and Soriana is advancing in this regard at a rapid pace. Five years ago, the company took sustainability to a strategic level and even created a sustainability division. Rodrigo Benet, Soriana’s Director of Planning Strategy and Communication, says his company views sustainability as something positive enough to be included in the corporate strategy. “Sustainability goes beyond social and environmental benefits; being sustainable is actually profitable and provides a wealth of benefits to the company,” he explains.

The main driver behind Soriana’s adoption of sustainable practices is the firm’s sense of commitment to Mexico. “We see ourselves as a national champion and Mexico has given a lot to Soriana. Therefore, we wanted to give something back, ultimately benefiting the people and the country.” The second driver is that the people at Soriana are convinced that such policies make the company more efficient, as it achieves savings, profitability, and better resource management, ultimately proving an effective business strategy for the company.

Benet feels fortunate because the company has experienced significant advancements and many achievements in the past few years. In 2007, Soriana launched a recycling program with internal and external scope. The original goal was to recycle all waste materials generated from the company’s operations, but Benet says the company then decided to take the program one step further and installed recycling modules in its stores so that the community could dispose of its cardboard, paper, batteries, and electronics. The recycling modules are strategically located next to the customer service desks, although additional channels are used to inform customers about this initiative. In order to promote a culture of recycling among its clientele, the retailer provides incentives to the clients using the recycling modules through points systems, and subsequently ensures that those materials undergo the proper recycling process. Nonetheless, Benet stresses that the main incentive should come from environmental consciousness, not economic benefits.

With this in mind, Soriana also works on creating awareness within the community, for which it relies on collaborations with other companies. For instance, Soriana and several other companies from Monterrey organized a recycling structure, in which PASA took care of collection, Vitro assumed the recycling responsibilities, and Multimedios gave the program visibility. “Grouping companies for sustainability initiatives makes a stronger case and can yield promising results. Creating synergies is important, whether these are done with NGOs, non-profit organizations, or even the government. After all, these issues pertain to everyone, therefore everyone has to contribute,” he explains.

As the company strived to generate more savings from sustainable practices, it opted to change the lighting systems in its sales floors, an initiative that years later was also implemented in some of the stores’ parking lots. More specific targets were defined in 2012, including minimizing water and energy use, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2017. After these targets were set, Soriana became deeply involved in clean energy, mainly from wind farms and solar parks. Benet notes that Soriana is an off-taker, and its associate, Gemex, makes the investments and develops the wind farms, while Banorte and the North American Development Bankprovide the financing. “I praise the fact that there are financing institutions that are willing to support these types of projects and have credits specifically destined for the development of clean energies,” Benet expresses.

In Baja California, Soriana has approximately 25 stores that generate 25% of their electricity through wind energy. A wind farm that provides electricity for 32 units became operational in 2012, and the following year the company entered another wind energy project that supplies 100% of the energy required to power 163 stores. In 2015, the company announced the construction of two more wind farms that will cover the electricity needs of 350 stores. “Our goal is to be using clean energy in all of our units within three or four years. We hope to integrate 160 Comercial Mexicana stores into our sustainability platform, and once this is achieved, we will look for ways to provide clean energy to these stores so that our entire chain can function exclusively on clean energy,” says Benet.

Benet hopes Soriana’s experience encourages other companies to adopt similar practices. “We are convinced this is the way forward because it benefits the country and our business model. I would tell other enterprises that it is worth doing some research on this subject and delving into it, as it will increase their efficiency and profitability. There is no downside; everybody wins, and that is the objective of any company,” he asserts.