Earthwise 2022: SEG Builds a Sustainable Future

Southeastern Grocers meshes input from shoppers and associates to develop and expand environmentally-friendly practices.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
Greg Sleter profile picture

When developing a plan for tackling the issue of sustainability, officials with Southeastern Grocers said they utilized feedback from shoppers, associates and the communities it serves. And the message the company received was clear.

“We heard clearly that sustainable packaging, food waste and emissions were the top areas of importance,” said Dewayne Rabon, Chief Merchandising Officer with Southeastern Grocers (SEG).

Today, the company continues working to build a “sustainable future” for years to come, according to Rabon. This includes aligning its goals and objectives with six United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The multi-pronged approach taken by the grocery retailer touches a number of key areas including product packaging, food waste and energy use at its locations.

Dewayne Rabon SEG
Dewayne Rabon, Chief Merchandising Officer, SEG

In an interview with Store Brands, Rabon shared what the company is doing now related to sustainability and how SEG will continue the effort going forward.

Store Brands: What steps has SEG taken to reduce waste from product packaging?

Dewayne Rabon: SEG has committed to increasing the sustainability of own-brand packaging by the end of 2028. As part of this pledge, all owned-brand packaging will eliminate polystyrene, be reusable, recyclable or industrially compostable and all packaging will have an average of 30% post-consumer recycled material.

SB: The source of food has become a major discussion point as it pertains to sustainability. How has SEG addressed these concerns?

Rabon: We have increased the sustainability of our own brand line of products through the support of fair labor practices, responsible cocoa sourcing and creation of fiber compostable and biodegradable single-use products. SEG was recently recognized by Store Brands for our commitment to innovating sustainable products and received multiple 2022 Game Changers awards.

We also believe in responsible sourcing and remain focused on working with and supporting local and diverse suppliers. This year, we’re hosting quarterly expos to help elevate small businesses and provide our customers with more of the local products they love.

SB: What steps has SEG taken to educate shoppers and get their buy-in when it comes to properly disposing of packaging?

Rabon: SEG has partnered with How2Recycle, a standardized labeling system for packaging that clearly communicates recycling instructions to customers based on packaging specifications. How2Recycle takes the guesswork out of recycling and follows guidance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Through this new partnership, we are adding How2Recycle’s label to our own brand product packaging to help educate customers on how to best recycle the packaging and prevent more material from going to the landfill. Additionally, our stores throughout the southeast have easily accessible recycling bins with clear instructions for proper disposal of plastic film.

SEG community bags

SB: What steps has SEG taken to reduce the use of single-use plastic shopping bags?

Rabon: We encourage our customers and community members to participate in
our Community Bag and Giving Tag program to make a difference in their local communities and help the environment by reducing the use of paper and plastic bags. With each purchase of a reusable community bag featuring an attached giving tag, customers can direct a $1 donation to the non-profit of their choice.

If the customer does not choose a nonprofit to receive the $1 donation within seven days, it will automatically be donated to the  store’s chosen nonprofit of the month. Each month, the store will select a new organization to benefit from the program including education, civic, health and wellness, hunger and disaster relief, veterans and military families as well as belonging, inclusion and diversity organizations serving the local community.

SB: How are these efforts marketed to shoppers?

Rabon: We regularly share our sustainability and recycling efforts with our customers through in-store signage, social media and press materials. Customers can easily find our commitments and progress highlighted in our Corporate Social Responsibility Progress Report available on our websites.