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Iceland’s Richard Walker on walking the tightrope of profit and purpose

About This Episode

Joining Michael on today’s Change Makers is Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland Foods. With a call to environmental action at the heart of his business ethos and a longstanding commitment to sustainability, Richard is a champion for the role of purpose in powering business profit. He has upheld the family legacy of ‘doing it right’ through initiatives to abolish palm oil in supermarket products, reduce plastic waste and commit to achieving carbon neutrality. His book ‘The Green Grocer: One man’s manifesto for corporate activism’ is set to be released in April, as he looks to inspire a supermarket-led change towards a better world, with nobody left behind.

Richard Walker, Managing Director, Iceland Foods

In 2012 Richard joined Iceland Foods, the company established by his parents Malcolm and Rhianydd in 1970. He worked full-time as a shelf-stacker and cashier in Iceland stores in London for a year, before becoming a store manager in Swiss Cottage and moving to Iceland head office at Deeside, Flintshire, in 2013. After various head office roles, including a spell running Iceland’s International division, Richard became Managing Director of The Food Warehouse, Iceland’s chain of more than 70 larger format stores, in 2015. He was promoted to his current role as Managing Director of Iceland Foods in August 2018. Since November 2017 Richard has taken the board lead on sustainability issues across the Group. Under his leadership, Iceland has taken a range of world-leading sustainability initiatives that include becoming the first major retailer globally to commit to eliminating single-use plastic packaging from its own label range, to be completed by the end of 2023; taking action against continuing destruction of tropical rainforests as the first UK major UK supermarket to announcing the removal of palm ingredients from its own label food by the end of 2018; becoming the first UK retailer to adopt the Plastic Free Trust Mark; and being the first retailer to install trial Reverse Vending Machines for plastic bottles in stores in England, Scotland and Wales.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

Eco Barons by Edward Humes. It recounts how successful businesspeople have used their wealth or platforms to drive positive environmental action.

What are you watching at the moment?

I don’t watch much TV at all, but have just been utterly absorbed by The Queens Gambit.

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

I would have to say my Dad, who is a pretty unique and inspiring person!

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’.

Busy.

What is your best tip for life?

Never, ever, ever, ever give up.

A quote for life

Expect nothing; work hard; celebrate.

Name your top five 'Lockdown Tracks'

This Must Be The Place (Talking Heads), Praise You (Fatboy Slim), Zamilou (Bu Kolthoum), Living In A Ghost Town (The Rolling Stones), You’ve Got The Love (Florence + The Machine)

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