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Kingfisher talks 'net positive'

Britain’s second biggest retailer – in terms of selling space, if not sales – has a plan to boost revenues: plant a tree. Or rather a few hundred thousand of them.

Kingfisher, the parent company of B&Q, which has more square footage than any other retailer in the UK, save Tesco, has unveiled a corporate social responsibility programme. It is entitled “net positive”, and Ian Cheshire, the chief executive, promises it goes beyond anything Marks & Spencer and its “Plan A” has done.

“We want to just go from being­ sustainable to being net positive.” In simple terms, this means not just replacing the trees it cuts down to make garden furniture, but also then planting a few more trees. So far, so easy to understand. But the company intends to extend this principle across various parts of its business, including “energy”, “innovation” and “communities”.

“Doing less evil is a good thing, but could we go beyond that? Being a positive force for good is a much more motivating idea than just not increasing the amount of evil you do,” says Cheshire, who is showing me around the B&Q store in Sutton, Surrey.

This sounds suspiciously vague and a bit irrelevant in a struggling consumer economy. But Cheshire is adamant that this is no vanity project “to make the chief executive feel better about the business”.

For him, it is an essential strategy if the company is to thrive in the long-term . “Being a good neighbour” is the only way to avoid the sort of back-lash that Tesco has suffered from in recent months.

“Business is not a pure popularity contest. But it is really critical now that you have a real sense of purpose, that there is something broader about the business and it’s not purely transactional. Because if it’s purely transactional you don’t have an enduring relationship with customers; you’re just taking their money.”

The full story is available in our Industry Articles section.

Source : Harry Wallopp – The Telegraph

23 April 2012
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