A Recap of the 2022 Retailer Environmental Roundtable

On September 13 and 14, RILA hosted its first in-person Retailer Environmental Roundtable, where members of our environmental and sustainability communities met in Washington, D.C. to hear from industry experts, dialogue with government regulators, and benchmark with one another. Over 80 attendees, representing 42 companies, gathered for a dynamic agenda focused on topics at the intersection of sustainability and compliance. Presentations featured policy updates, regulatory outlooks, and retail case studies showcasing how leading retailers are advancing sustainability and circularity with creative partnerships that tackle everything from resale to substantiating environmental claims.

Day 1

Climate Check In: Policy Updates & EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership

The Roundtable opened with a spotlight on federal climate action from RILA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, Austen Jensen and Vice President of Tax, Hana Greenberg who provided an overview of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)’s most relevant incentives for retail carbon reduction strategies. After Jensen recapped RILA’s advocacy engagement on tax and climate to date and touched on the role the IRA plays relative to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), Greenberg outlined the breakdown of dozens of new and modified tax credit and other funding opportunities. A small group discussion followed on how RILA can help member Tax and Sustainability and Environmental teams identify next steps.
The second portion of the morning’s climate session featured Matt Clouse, Chief of Energy Supply & Industry Branch at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Protection Partnerships Division, who spoke about the EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership’s existing tools and resources, welcoming retailer feedback on what support is most useful for the industry from the agency moving forward. RILA committed to collecting industry input to identify next steps for collaboration.

Reusable Shopping Bag Rental

Later in the morning, Suzanne Cole, Senior Manager of Sustainability Strategic Initiatives, Circular Economy with Walmart and Kate Daly, Managing Director with Closed Loop Partners spoke about The Beyond the Bag Initiative, including over a dozen RILA members. The Initiative aims to identify, pilot, and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Cole and Daly spoke in detail about learnings from recent reusable shopping bag pilots, in the context of broader regulatory trends. Daly also announced the release of a new Beyond the Plastic Bag report, which spotlights “key insights and analysis gathered from collaborative reusable bag pilots conducted across select CVS Health, Target, and Walmart stores throughout Northern California in 2021.” Afterwards, an engaged breakout group dove into the often-challenging nuances of navigating on-brand, customer-centric, and environmentally optimal solutions for this deceptively simple item.

EPA Panel

Day 1 wrapped up with a briefing from senior officials from U.S. EPA headquarters on key developments in the waste/recycling space and around refrigerant regulations. Nena Shaw, an Acting Division Director in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, shared information on EPA’s plans for its $275M allocation under the BIL that will be used to stand up and issue grants over the next four years under a Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) Grant Program. Under the BIL, the Agency also has a separate $75M funding pool available for recycling education and outreach grants, for which public-private partnerships are among the eligible entities. EPA expects to announce its first call for proposals for each of these grant opportunities later this year. Interested parties can track developments using grants.gov. Shaw also highlighted EPA’s work to meet the BIL directive to examine battery collection practices and labeling guidelines, which will culminate in a report to Congress due late 2023.

Attendees also heard from Luke Hall-Jordan, a branch chief for the division of the Office of Air and Radiation that is responsible for regulating refrigerant emissions. Hall-Jordan teed up the next major rulemaking in this space, due out this fall, which will be aimed at transitioning technology and refrigerant end uses to lower GWP refrigerants, including the refrigeration equipment in retail stores and distribution centers. Both Hall-Jordan and Shaw joined participants in lively breakout discussions which afforded opportunity for dialogue. 

Day 1 Case Studies

Throughout the Roundtable, several retailers shared their success stories in case study presentations. On Day 1, attendees heard from Erik Petrovskis, Director of Environmental Compliance and Sustainability at Meijer on how they are tackling refrigerant emissions reductions and Jeannie Rennè-Malone, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President, Global Sustainability at VF on supplier emissions reduction engagement.

Arielle Massillon, Program Manager, Sustainability and ESG, and CJ Lucia, Senior Manager of Strategy & Innovation at DICK’S Sporting Goods discussed their lessons learned from their current resale programs. Mardi Ditze, Country Sustainability Manager at IKEA also provided insight from IKEA’s furniture resale program.

Attendees also learned from Suzanne Cole, Senior Manager, Sustainability Strategic Initiatives, Circular Economy at Walmart and Marie-Agnes Daumas, Senior Vice President, Retail with TerraCycle about their Community Recycling Hub pilot, a one-stop customer recycling program for packaging and products that can’t be recycled in a residential curbside bin. They talked about best practices and lessons learned, as well as Walmart’s partnership with TerraCycle and product manufacturers.

Day 2

Packaging, Recycled Content & Recyclability Legislative Outlook

Day 2 opened with a legislative outlook on waste from policy and regulatory experts. Resa Dimino, Managing Partner with Signalfire and Managing Principal with RRS and Samantha Kappalman, Senior Director of External Affairs at The Recycling Partnership began the session by providing a snapshot of the legislative activity for packaging extended producer responsibility (EPR), recycled content, and recyclability claims. A good portion of the session focused on packaging EPR, as four states have passed legislation, (ME, OR, CO, CA), 17 bills were introduced in 2022, and likely more states will pass legislation in the next legislative cycle. Kappalman and Dimino walked through implementation timelines for each of the four states, with retailer compliance beginning as early as 2024. Joe Rinzel, Senior Vice President of Multistate, flagged the urgency for retailers to play a meaningful role in shaping the direction of packaging EPR ahead of more state legislation. Rinzel chatted through key concepts where an active retail voice is needed most, such as fee collection, cost sharing and educating incentives for sustainable packaging attributes and design. RILA highlighted its past efforts to align on a reactive packaging EPR viewpoint, and its upcoming plans to reconvene retailers to take a closer look at the key concepts highlighted during the session. 

Regulatory Outlook

Day 2 closed out with a jam-packed regulatory outlook session delivered by legal and regulatory experts from Beveridge & Diamond, PC.  Aaron Goldberg, Principal, kicked things off with a look at the growing list of NGO petitions aimed at directing EPA to “creative uses” of its authority under RCRA, including calls to regulate PVC and PFAS as hazardous waste, and to designate solar panels as universal waste. Beth Richardson, Principal, tagged in with a tour through other ongoing and upcoming federal developments that will have holistic impacts on environmental enforcement and retail sustainability and compliance, including the highly anticipated Federal Trade Commission Green Guides updates and the Biden Administration’s prioritization of environmental justice. And finally, Zach Pilchen, Associate, shared the current regulatory landscape for HFCs and anticipated next steps, including the technology transitions rulemaking teed up by EPA during Day 1. Pilchen capped off the session with unpacking the implications of the recent SCOTUS ruling in West Virginia v. EPA that is already being used to challenge federal agency authority in matters considered “major questions.”

Day 2 Case Studies

Micah Thompson, Director, Sustainability at Advance Auto Parts shared information on how Advance Auto worked with UL and its battery supplier Clarios to achieve the world’s first automotive battery to receive circular economy validation. Bill Hoffman, Engineering Leader, UL joined Thompson to unpack the process of circular economy validation. 
The final case study of the Roundtable discussed the power of data to impact change. Susie Roncone, Director, Environmental Compliance at Wegmans and Jacqueline Claudia, CEO of Smarter Sorting, discussed their collaboration and how Wegmans uses product-level data to manage nonsaleable products in the safest way possible while increasing diversion, improving reclamation, and reducing the environmental impact.  

A special thank you to our strategic partners: Beveridge & Diamond, UL Solutions, CHEP-Brambles, Accenture, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), Schneider Electric Sustainability Business, Smarter Sorting, and US Ecology for contributing their time and expertise to produce exceptional meeting content and opportunities to engage with subject matter experts on sustainability and environmental compliance issues. Many thanks to our facilitators during peer-to-peer benchmarking sessions: Arielle Massillon and CJ Lucia, DICK’S Sporting Goods; Mardi Ditze, IKEA; Beth Richardson, Aaron Goldberg, and Zach Pilchen, Beveridge & Diamond; Resa Dimino, RRS; Elody Samuelson, Schneider Electric; Tom Carney, US Ecology; Matt Clouse, Nena Shaw, and Luke Hall-Jordan, EPA; Kate Daly, Closed Loop Partners; and Austen Jensen and Hana Greenberg, RILA. Thank you for your contributions which made the first in-person Retailer Environmental Roundtable a success!

Committees and Networks

For information regarding the Environmental Compliance Network or Environmental Advocacy Committee, please contact Susan Kirsch, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs.

For information regarding the Sustainability Committee, please contact Erin Hiatt, Vice President, CSR.

For information regarding the Zero Waste Network, please contact Kaela Martins, Senior Manager, Environmental Programs and Retail Compliance Center. 

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