Can you help in the fight to reverse climate change and promote social justice, while also generating a profit? In his debut book, The Green Grocer, Richard Walker shows you how it’s not only possible but essential to do so.
Walker, managing director of Iceland Foods, is at the forefront of the sustainable business conversation and has championed the ethical and eco business practices of Iceland Foods, most recently divulging their plastic footprint with 100% transparency and calling for other UK supermarkets to join him.
Growing up, Walker never wanted to work in the family business or attempt to follow in the legendary footsteps of his father, who founded the company in 1970. But following a successful property career in Europe and the UK, and after spending a year training in-store between 2012 and 2013, Richard joined the Iceland head office team in his early 30s, fully aware of his inherited privilege. This awareness means he has never taken his position for granted and has always strived to make good use of it.
Walker’s debut book The Green Grocer is about his quest to find purpose with profit for his business, helping readers with businesses of all sizes to see the value of pursuing ethical policies. It serves as a passionate call to ‘democratise environmentalism’ by making it relevant and relatable to all. Walker offers clear-sighted advice about how any business can make genuine progress on sustainable initiatives regardless of who their customer is, while being realistic about profit margins, and obligations to shareholders and employees. His experience serves as an inspiration for any business, whether a large corporation, a start-up, a kitchen-table entrepreneur, or a sole trader, to make a difference.
Citing real-life examples from ‘Doing it Right’, Iceland’s own sustainability strategy, Walker reflects on the successes and many failures he has experienced whilst endeavouring to reduce the retailer’s environmental footprint. He is transparent about the many trade-offs and tough choices that come with trying to make a mass-market food retailer more responsible. He discusses the drivers that led him to announce Iceland’s ambitious commitment to eliminate plastic packaging from all of their own-label products by the end of 2023; reveals why he is personally passionate about sustainability; and considers why it is important (and often valuable) for business leaders to look beyond short-term profit.
Walker said: “The Green Grocer is a personal account of my journey so far, acting as a manifesto for corporate activism and hopefully inspiring others to step up and take action. The sheer scale of what we need to do can seem overwhelming, but there’s a starting point for all of us and I’m keen to share some of the important lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
“The book provides a business and leadership philosophy based on looking beyond short-term profit, instead setting seemingly impossible goals and focusing on long-term results to bring about real change, for the good of business, communities and the planet. I wanted to lift the lid on the changes that I believe must happen across the private and public sectors in order to meet the biggest challenges of our time.”
Split into six chapters covering what businesses need to do, how to eliminate single-use plastic and palm oil, government responsibilities, lessons from Covid-19 and why Walker is optimistic about the future, The Green Grocer will inspire tangible change. Walker openly discusses the backlash he faced following the release of Iceland’s banned Rang-Tan 2018 Christmas advert, how the food retailer coped with panic buying incentivised by fear of a national lockdown in 2020, and praises the many ways that start-ups are leading the charge against a range of issues from single-use plastic to carbon reduction. Each chapter concludes with key takeaways to provide readers with advice for next steps and fundamental learnings.
As a business leader Walker is aware of the fortunate position he is in and the impact his business decisions can make on the wider world, whether that’s a small logistical adjustment or a larger marketing campaign. His experiences detailed in The Green Grocer will inspire other business owners to recognise that no matter the size or age of their business they too have a responsibility to make a difference.
The Green Grocer offers a new lens to well-known issues. Most of us are aware of what we need to do to help our planet and why we need to act, but we now need to consider how we can each play our part. As public awareness of problems such as plastic and palm oil grows, consumers are taking more interest in a company’s ethics. Whether you are a CEO, manager, assistant or consumer – any level of change can build up to a big difference and we can all incite action.
Whether you own a company or are interested in what it takes to make a multi-billion pound business greener, The Green Grocer is an inspiring read around ethical consumption, sustainability and greener living.