Kingfisher's CEO – net positive

Kingfisher is Europe's largest home improvement retail group and the third largest in the world. The company operates over 1,080 stores in nine countries in Europe and Asia and produced sales in 2013 of nearly £11 billion.

Last year it launched its “Net Positive” initiative together with Forum for the Future in a bid to adopt a new supply chain approach to production, consumption and re-use.

Ian Cheshire, group CEO explains why: “Food prices have increased 6 percent in the last two years, energy prices have risen 30 percent in the last five. Living costs are soaring and that’s bad news.

"If I can re-think the way we do business and remove the barriers that prevent people being able to improve their homes, then I can drive success.

"It’s been costing us to get rid of around 242,000 tonnes of waste each year, with plastics being a significant contributor to that. What happens though if I change my thinking to eliminate the entire concept of waste and instead start finding ways to feed these materials back into my supply chain? Lower materials cost and lower operating costs lead to competitive advantage.

"If it is true for our business waste though, is it not also true for our customers’ waste? If I change my thinking to see end of life products as having reached their end of first use, can I incentivise my customers to bring back products and feed these materials back into my supply chain?

"Indeed, if I take that thinking one step further, do I really want to sell all my product or might there be circumstances where it would be preferable to rent instead? If my customers use their drill on average for seven minutes a year, do they want to own it or is it cheaper and easier for them to rent one from me? In that model I also retain all the valuable materials for re-use when that drill comes to the end of its usefulness.

"At Kingfisher we are not just thinking about this stuff - with help from our partners at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we are already actively experimenting to see how we can adapt. In some B&Q stores we’ve installed recycling units to understand what and how much customers might recycle with us and what we need to offer to incentivise them to bring back more. In Poland we are a little more advanced, having already run successful amnesties to take back power tools and, in France, we’re taking back old clothes that we’re turning into loft insulation.

"It might be early days, but when the rules of the game are changing, you have to change your game.”