FT - James Lowman, chairman, ACS

ACS chief executive James Lowman

Two hundred retailers gathered in Westminster on Tuesday October 18 to hear from policymakers, political commentators, and local decision makers at the Heart of the Community conference organised by ACS.

This year featuring a keynote speech from Katy Balls, deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, on the current political landscape, as well as a panel session with the finalists of the 2022 Raj Aggarwal Trophy – Dean Holborn and Bobby Singh. Other speakers included: Ian Diment of AF Blakemore; Mike Crowhurst from Public First, councillor Ankur Shiv Bhandari, mayor of Bracknell Forest; shadow minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Daniel Zeichner; and Jen Emerton (WRAP).

This year’s conference also featured the new Partner Hub where retailers can access advice, best practice and essential information about supporting colleagues, helping the local community and tackling crime. Partner Hub contributors include the National Business Crime Centre, GroceryAid, Community Alcohol Partnerships, the Safer Business Network, the Money and Pensions Service and Bucks and Surrey Trading Standards.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Local shops play a crucial role in the levelling up agenda, providing essential products and services to communities that in some cases would otherwise be without a local grocery offering at all. These are businesses that are embedded in their communities, as job creators, investors, social hubs and much more. When Government considers the best way to level up local communities, thriving convenience stores should be central to their plans.”

As part of its activity on the sustainability agenda and the challenges facing local shops, ACS announced it is signing up as a supporter of WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact, joining other leading business groups in affirming its commitment to making the convenience sector more sustainable. The Plastics Pact has four main objectives:

1. Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery model

2. 100% of plastics packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable

3. 70% of plastics packaging effectively recycled or composted

4. 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

Lowman added: “We are committed to working with WRAP and other environmental groups on finding ways to make the products that our members sell more recyclable. The convenience sector is currently facing huge challenges through a range of different policy interventions across the UK, including bans on some single use plastics, the introduction of differing deposit return schemes in different countries, and the expansion of the extended producer responsibility scheme – it is important that we introduce measures that will be maximally effective without imposing unnecessary costs and burdens on retailers.”