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45 (140) 2020
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Interviews

Employees, environment, customers and society – cornerstones of Castorama’s CSR strategy

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Paweł Świętochowski, president of the Castorama Foundation and business relations & community projects manager at Castorama Polska, outlines the home-improvement giant’s approach to corporate responsibility

Our Responsible Business strategy is based on four pillars –colleagues, planet, customers and community.

1.    Colleagues: Inclusivity and diversity in the workplace; in the Polish context this is mainly about
combating age and gender discrimination. B&Q in the UK has long been renowned for hiring older people, whose experience and enthusiasm makes them ideal advisors for our customers as they improve their homes. One legendary employee was hired by B&Q at the age of over 70 and worked until he was 96, only stopping because he wanted more time to meet his friends. We’ve adopted this trend to employ older people in Poland. Someone who’s spent his working life tiling, but can no longer bend down and work on his knees still has vast amount of knowledge and experience that he can share with Castorama’s customers. Demographics are changing – here in Poland, as in the West, our population is ageing. We offer older employees a place where they can serve our customers with their expertise. New technology, automation in particular, means that employees don’t have so many heavy loads to deal with during their working day. Of, course we don’t forget about young people, offering them the chance to take part in work-experience practices at our stores.

Our workforce has to reflect our society; by taking steps to ensure this is the case, we can ensure their loyalty. This is confirmed by the enormous commitment and loyalty of the employees – Castorama is the only company in the retail sector that can boast that almost 60% of its employees have been with it for five years or more, and that over 45% of employees have been with the firm for at least 10 years.

2.    Planet: We have to do good for the environment, for our planet – and in particular for our forests. Our ambition as a group is to create more forests than we use, delivering 100% responsibly sourced wood and paper in all the products we sell by the end of the next fiscal years, becoming ‘forest-positive’ by 2025. By next year, all the wood and paper products that we sell will come from responsible sources which mean they will have to be certified FSC or PEFC as well. Our clients notice that our products are certified as coming from sustainably managed forest. This raises awareness among consumers as a whole. We are helping to drive that change. We are also doing what we can to source more locally. We call this ‘near-sourcing’. China is not always the cheapest if you take transportation costs into account, as well as the environmental costs of shipping a product halfway around the world. There’s no way back from this trend of shortening supply chains. We also want our products to last longer – our Life’s Smarter initiative is all about reduce/reuse/recycle. Products, such as lawn mowers, for example, should be designed to have a longer life. This means having as many replaceable parts in them as possible. Once the producer’s guarantee has run out, the consumer should still be able to keep the product going for many, many years, rather than having a broken piece of junk fit only for the dustbin. And when they do finally break down, they should be disposed of responsibly. We launched a wildly successful campaign, Kwiaty za elektrograty (‘Flowers for electrojunk’). Customers who brought in broken electronic and electrical devices were given in exchange pots of flowering heather. The old phones, laptops, TVs, lawn mowers were passed onto a recycling firm that dismantled them properly, removing harmful elements and putting back into use anything that could find another life. We collected over 2,700 pallet-loads of items, and exchanged them for nearly 400,000 flowers! This campaign took place across our 82 stores.

3.    Our customers: We offer our customers ways to saving energy and water – and money. Mindful of the bills they pay, we are constantly seeking products that are more efficient. Take mixer taps for example. We are now selling taps that pour eight or even six litres of water per minute at three bars pressure, where the old ones we could pour even 11 litres of water per minute. This is also the case in lighting; more energy-efficient LED lights are now replacing older units. In the future, we will be introducing more and more photovoltaic products that can be powered by sunlight. We are also concerned about customers’ health – our direction is to replace paints and varnishes containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by products which are free from such substances (green ones).

4.    Our community: Castorama functions within society, so we are mindful of the needs of people less fortunate than ourselves. We have set up the Castorama Foundation to help people in need and offer our employees the chance to help socially. As well as supporting for example children’s homes and social care homes financially or in products through the Foundation, our employees are also keen on volunteering their spare time to work on improving the rooms, and by doing so, improving the lives of the people who live there. It is our mission, as leader in the home-improvement market, to support local communities. At this moment there are 16 such projects around Poland and in some of them volunteers are helping out with. Some are being completed, others are just starting. These projects generate a lot of interest among Castorama’s employees, as they can go and help and feel proud of having done something good. This is something that touches us all – we can help people who would have to live in harder circumstances otherwise. Apart from work renovating such centres, there are also other social projects in which Castorama’s employees are engaged in.

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