Do businesses really understand circularity? 


April 18, 2024 | By Rupkatha B

Seneca Cottom, Head of Sustainability, Alshaya Group

“Businesses often fail to realise that reducing waste is not just about saving the planet, but it’s also about effective operations and cost savings” – Seneca Cottom, Head of Sustainability, Alshaya Group.

As Head of Sustainability for Kuwait-based regional retail conglomerate Alshaya Group, Seneca Cottom has been instrumental in developing ESG strategies that align with the company’s ethos. Her expertise has been pivotal in developing initiatives that empower employees, enhance customer experience and foster community engagement across 17 countries and 85 brands that Alshaya operates. Cottom merges financial insight with environmental stewardship to shape Alshaya’s business practices positively.

Alshaya Group’s ESG Efforts at a Glance

  • Collected over 20 tons of used clothing and shoes from customers through collection boxes and promotions.
  • Introduced a packaging takeback scheme in The Body Shop stores that it operates.
  • Reduced landfill waste by 40% through a pilot project.

Asked about one change that she feels proud to have implemented within the Alshaya business in the past 12 months, Cottom said, “Our company’s environmental impact is largely due to the waste we produce, both operationally and through our products. It’s crucial that we take responsibility for managing this waste as an organisation and find ways to assist our customers in doing the same. For instance, among several other initiatives, in 2023, we launched a pilot project in Mall of the Emirates, partnering with six restaurants to reduce and reuse plastic waste. The project was a success, reducing landfill waste by 40%, while allowing us to create new packaging products using PET plastic. We plan to expand this programme to other markets as well.”

Highlighting the importance of collective action, she added, “We’re proud of the partnerships we’ve established with stakeholders throughout the region, all working together to create a more sustainable future.”

So, what is Alshaya Group doing to build an equitable future?

The business has set concrete goals to explore and expand ways to implement circularity into its business operations to drive efficiency, reduce waste and reduce costs. In this context, Cottom observed, “Circularity is an issue that’s not discussed enough in the Middle East. Despite our heavy consumption, we lack the necessary waste management infrastructure to tackle the problem. Alshaya Group has the resources to really dig into this problem in a way that’s not only good for the planet but good for business too. To move forward, we will utilise technology, bring together stakeholders and create a circular ecosystem to reduce our waste profile.”

“This year, we are also focusing on helping our suppliers embark on this sustainability journey with us. We are supporting our suppliers to raise their sustainability standards, especially when it comes to people. We aim to collaborate with partners who share the same dedication to improvement and change,” she concluded.

Pick up the April edition of IMAGES RetailME Magazine to read the full article that will be published as part of our cover story on ‘50 Outstanding Women in MENA Retail’.

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