The Retail Council of Canada has appointed Michael Zabaneh as its new vice president of sustainability to help retailers continue on an environmentally friendly path as they do business.
Zabaneh is an international sustainable business expert, with 20 years of experience across Canada, Europe, Middle East and North Africa and Asia. His work has most recently been focused on public and private sector ESG, climate change, sustainable development, circular economy strategies, projects, initiatives and policy advocacy.
“In this role, I’ll continue to work with retailers to provide advocacy, good governance across Canada on sustainability topics, as well as help inform them on sustainability trends, thought leadership concerning emerging issues and best practices both within North America and globally as it relates to the retail sector from a sustainability perspective,” Zabaneh told SustainableBiz. “And then, diving into opportunities relating to sustainability to retailers in terms of becoming more circular and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
“But basically we’ll continue as a priority to lead retailers from an advocacy perspective across Canada on issues such as climate change, extended producer responsibility, circular economy and just work with governments to ensure the policies being developed are harmonized across Canada.”
Zabaneh before the Retail Council of Canada
Most recently, Zabaneh was director of sustainability with GFL Environmental Inc., where he developed and advanced the company’s corporate sustainability/climate change strategy, goals, projects and programs with key stakeholders. He also monitored, measured and reported on GHG emissions and the broader sustainability impact.
“My background is a mix of waste management and recycling, as well as consulting,” he said.
During his career, he has been senior vice president with Reclay StewardEdge; director of climate change and sustainability services with EY; and vice president of business development and strategy with BEEAH Group.
He has also held senior advisory roles for key Canadian and international circular economy and climate change projects with the United Nations Social Commission, the European Commission, British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment and the City of Hamilton.
“(Sustainability) is becoming a focus for the retail industry as well as its supply chain,” Zabaneh said. “Leading retailers have been actively embedding sustainability practices for decades now and that involves global supply chain sourcing, recycling, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their operations amongst other social issues such as labour rights and human rights.
“But retailers are committed to the long-term to reduce their emissions, boost recycling and overall protect the environment. They’re working as retailers within their supply chains to develop more circular packaging, drive packaging innovation; their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, to reduce them; as well as really looking across the value chain which I think is going to be a huge thing moving forward to reduce emissions.
“The good news is that a lot of the major supply-chain players have set net-zero targets and science-based targets, so that’s an amazing first step. Reducing Scope 3 emissions in terms of all players across the industry is going to require collaboration, and collaboration across the value chain to reduce emissions and use more sustainable materials.”
Retail and sustainability
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse emissions that occur from sources controlled or owned by an organization (e.g., emissions from fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, vehicles). Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling. Although Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where they are generated, they are accounted for in an organization’s GHG inventory because they are a result of the organization’s energy use. Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain.
Zabaneh said retailers have been quite active over recent years in sustainability, working to reduce transportation emissions, shifting to electric vehicles, increasing energy efficiencies within their retail operations and distribution centres, and incorporating renewable energy at some sites.
“This is nothing new to them. It’s really about . . . where are we going next to meet our own net-zero goals, because a lot of our retailers have set ambitious goals. How do we work with big players across the value chain to reduce impact?” he said.
“As we evolve and as retailers have set these targets, the next step is going to be really engaging further with the supply chain to drive more circularity and reduced emissions.”
For retailers, there can be financial benefits for embracing sustainability. It’s not just the right thing to do.
“Making a difference in trying to drive sustainability in your operations, typically makes financial sense in terms of recycling more, in terms of more energy efficiency. Long-term, these have pay-back periods but really the pressure on sustainability is coming from all stakeholders,” said Zabaneh.
“We know about global warming. We know we don’t want to be above 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. The pressure over the last five years has evolved, spearheaded by customers, by investors and government taking this on with action plans and policies to reduce impact.
“The reality is a driving force right now to create change.”