The built environment contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than any other man-made source. Constructing residential units – and then using them for many decades – is part of that problem. Houses and flats can be adapted to use far less energy than they do. What is Kingfisher Group – and Castorama in Poland – doing to persuade householders to invest in insulating their homes and energy-saving solutions?
As a socially responsible company, we have been involved in educational activities and promoting environmentally friendly attitudes for many years. We are continually improving the selection and availability of solutions aimed at saving water or energy as well as reducing heat losses. The range of products and the base of inspiration are presented through activities under the Nasza Sfera (‘our sphere’) programme. Through our integrated communication channels, we advise our clients on what solutions they can apply, highlighting the benefit for the environment and for the household budget. We know that more and more Poles are starting to focus on introducing ecological solutions in their homes. Introducing such changes is beneficial in every aspect, from improving the quality of life, greater environmental friendliness to helping family finances as these solutions effectively reduce utility bills. That is why Castorama supports the creation of sustainable homes and gardens.
Comparing your B2C websites (B&Q in the UK and Castorama in Poland), it seems that the British consumer is more sensitive to issues surrounding environmental sustainability, while the Polish consumer is more focused on price and value for money. Would you agree with that observation? How do you see Castorama’s role in shaping your customers’ awareness on green issues?
I think that this approach to price and value for money is common not only among Polish customers, but also among people from other countries. During the pandemic, we could observe a negative factor in the form of inflation, which affects consumer behaviour in many countries. However, the choice of solutions for sustainable homes is an investment not only important for the environment, but also brings real savings in long-term operation. Our role is to properly present the offer of such products and to support customers’ choices. We educate our advisors, we have included the promotion of products for sustainable homes in our commercial plan and we engage customers in awareness campaigns with the help of competitions and campaigns. Our activities are met with great interest. Last year, we observed for instance an increase in sales of domestic water-retention solutions and a greater interest in products manufactured in accordance with the principles of respect for the natural environment, wood and wood-based products from certified sources.
I’d also like to mention our annual Kwiaty za elektrograty (‘flowers for electrowaste) campaign, during which customers bring to our stores the electronic and electric waste that clutter up their homes, and in return receive plant seedlings. This year, we collected almost 900 tons of electronic waste, which will be recycled or reprocessed in a professional and environmentally safe manner.
Sourcing and supply chains also have a major effect on CO2 emissions. Kingfisher publishes extensive guidelines for its suppliers – in ten different languages – to ensure that it is sourcing sustainably and responsibly. How has your approach to sourcing already contributed to lower emissions? What more can be done in the field of sourcing?
We are aware that the supply chain starts at the factory and ends at the customer's home, so it is important to make every effort to minimise the negative impact on the environment. It’s worth noting that 40% of sales of products in our stores are products manufactured in Poland!
Within the Kingfisher Group, but also on the ground in Poland through our own local initiatives, we are constantly looking for innovative environmentally and customer-friendly solutions. One such example is our in-store development of shipping trays and pots made of recycled plastic and cardboard. We are also working on an assortment of pots made only from recycled materials. As a result, it allows us to minimise emissions during production and brings us closer to the circular economy.
From the beginning of our activity, we have implemented a service for defective products. Working with an external company, we repair drills, saws, etc., so that even after the warranty expires, we can put the products back to use, thus extending their life, effectively reducing emissions as well as the raw materials used production of replacement items.
As we know, a product does not exist without transport, so it is important to do it effectively. I can point out here that 10 years ago we started intermodal deliveries from port to distribution centres using trains and trucks. In the last financial year, almost 98% of its own imports were made by trains, and finally by trucks to the distribution centres.
Looking to the future, we have to develop more and more products made of recycled materials, using less plastic in the packaging and in the final stage – transport to customers. We are currently considering different solutions, checking the potential for using a fleet of electric vehicles for delivery.
How do you think photovoltaic solutions for home use will begin to take off at the retail, B2C, level? Examples I can think of right now would include outdoor lighting and not much – however, I suspect that once perovskite production gets up to speed, applications would be legion. What new categories of photovoltaic products can you foresee coming onto the home-improvement market over the next few years? Maybe other renewable energy technologies too?
Investments in new products and solutions in the segment of single-family houses are strongly promoted. As of January 2022, a subsidy with a total budget of 880 million zlotys has been announced for solar panels, energy storage and home car chargers. This is a great motivation for potential investors. Currently, the market is developing dynamically, including car-ports with solar panels that collect additional energy. Small photovoltaic sets for garden plots also have great potential. Electric products, which are installed by homeowners with already installed photovoltaics in order to use excess electricity, are also becoming more and more popular. In particular, it is electric heating, which is increasingly becoming the main source of heating in the home. Probably in the future it will also be possible to transfer surplus energy to another place, for instance to another apartment, thus reducing energy costs.
Flexible panels, called perovskites, will be introduced in the near future. Until now, due to relatively high production costs, perovskite photovoltaic cells have not been used in everyday life. However, thanks to the discovery made by a Polish physicist, this material can be easily applied to almost any material, and thus – widely used. Scientists assume that in the near future, perovskites may revolutionise not only the entire photovoltaic industry, but also the automotive industry, construction, consumer electronics and even clothing. Currently, external shutters for industrial buildings are being already in production and these solutions will soon start appearing in other areas.
As you can see, we have great development opportunities in this area.
Gardens host a rich variety of plant life, trees and flowers; this can help with fostering biodiversity, soaking up carbon dioxide, generating oxygen – what is Castorama doing to encourage homeowners to create environmentally friendly gardens?
Biodiversity is the richness of the life forms found on Earth, the diversity of species, their internal genetic diversity and the diversity of ecosystems. Maintaining it at a high level has a positive effect on the fight against climate change, improves the quality of air, soil and water. Therefore, as a responsible company, promoting pro-ecological attitudes and facilitating the creation of healthier and greener houses and gardens, we also care for this area. We know that thanks to our actions, hundreds of thousands of customers are take small steps, e.g. cultivating native plant species, planting flower meadows, providing shelter for pollinating insects. This year, our educational campaigns have promoted these solutions. We celebrated, among other things, Bee Day by showing products safe for these insects, or we conducted competitions for the children of customers and employees, encouraging them to care for biodiversity in the immediate vicinity. It is also favoured by the ever-expanding offer of products, plants and inspiration in creating gardens that are friendly to everyone. It is worth adding that in our stores there are dedicated, specially marked shelves with natural products, including, for example, fertilisers.
Has COP26 encouraged Castorama or Kingfisher Group to take any new initiatives in terms of decarbonisation, reducing methane emissions, or protecting rainforests?
COP26 was a significant summit but as the arrangements are not only important for countries and governments but they also encourage companies to take more efforts to make local initiatives.
The summit’s primary goal is to secure global net zero by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5°C. This goal aligns with the Planet pillar of our Responsible Business strategy, with our commitment to help to tackle climate change and become Forest Positive. We have in place an approved 1.5°C aligned science-based carbon reduction target, which puts us on a trajectory to net zero by 2050.
As Kingfisher we also participated in a number of events during COP26 alongside our strategic partners, Race to Zero and Rainforest Alliance
Next year marks 25 years of Castorama in Poland: how do you plan to celebrate your silver anniversary here, and what are your plans for the years to come?
Twenty five years of Castorama Polska is a unique moment in our activity. On the one hand, we look at our history with pride, seeing successive generations creating better and more comfortable homes thanks to us. Long-term relationships with professionals and professionals who can always count on the products they need for their work, available immediately. We appreciate our employees who, rich in knowledge and experience, support the development and improvement of our company every day. On the other hand, we think about the future. About how dynamically we change and set trends for our market. During these 25 years we have been a leader for whom the most important benchmark is our own history and position. Constantly challenge ourselves by setting new goals.
Increasing the availability of our products and services is of great importance to us, which is why we invest in new sales channels, e-commerce, and the dynamic development of the network of our physical shops. We create a modern range of products that use the latest technologies and are created with respect for the natural environment. We work with suppliers to improve the products, as well as the method of their packaging and delivery logistics. In the coming years, we will be well on the way towards zero emissions and climate neutrality. We are also taking steps with regard to the electricity we consume, more and more of which will be coming from green energy from next year. We are convinced that our passion and dedication will allow us to sustain our success as a reliable partner for millions of our customers in the long term.