On July 3, 2018, Massy Stores across the region took the bold decision to transition customers to reusable bags through the introduction of a charge on single-use plastic shopping bags. That decision to reduce plastic waste is part of our organisation’s broader commitment to find ways of operating more sustainably and becoming more environmentally conscious. Today, we can proudly announce that here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines we have noted a 67% decrease in plastic bag usage across our 3 supermarkets. This translates to 480,000 single use plastic bags, which could have ended up in our island’s landfill and the environment.

We credit the positive customer response to our reusable bag initiative to a number of factors. These include our focus on customer education and awareness through campaigns highlighting and reinforcing the harmful effects of single-use plastic shopping bags, our very close collaboration with various environmental agencies on island, as well as incentives provided during promotions through which thousands of reusable bags were provided to customers free of charge to start instilling the practice over the past two years.

With the implementation of the plastic bag charge in 2018, we indicated that part of the charge would go into an environmental fund to support environmental projects, groups and agencies throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The fund became operational in February 2019 taking into consideration international best practice guidelines around its structure and governance. To date, through the fund, we have supported several activities including a beach clean-up, waste diversion depot and have supported projects spearheaded by various organizations.

Today, we are here to provide funding to the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National Conservation Trust Fund (SVG NCTF) and Action Bequia, to manage a portion of the funds collected which amounts to EC$10,000.00 each. These funds will allow these entities to undertake a wide range of both marine and land-based conservation and environmental related activities, including alternative sustainable livelihoods. The funds donated by Massy Stores (SVG) Ltd will also allow these entities to channel to environmental projects with a focus on plastic waste management or which have a plastic waste management component.

We are confident that the National Conservation Trust Fund and Action Bequia are good organisations to partner with given that they have proper framework in place, consistent with best practices for conservation trust funds. Our confidence in the National Conservation Trust Fund and Action Bequia are based on their governance structure, with their duly appointed board of directors, regular Annual General Meetings, independently audited financial statements, and Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, which is in place to ensure that they deliver results according to plans.

CYEN will also be awarded funding towards their winning proposal valued at $10,000.00. This was a result of the competition held to award environmental groups, Community Organizations, Environmental clubs, schools, charitable organizations and other non-profit organizations, one on mainland St. Vincent and one in the Grenadines. Unfortunately based on the entries proposed, no project from the Grenadines met the criteria to be award funding as this time. However, there will be other opportunities in the future for other groups to present their proposal and receive funding.

A United Nations report issued in July 2018, notes that 127 countries have implemented some type of policy regulating plastic bags. The report showed that 27 countries have also enacted some type of ban on other single-use plastics like plates, cups, straws, or packaging. Here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines single use plastics is clearly on the national agenda, as we can see from government’s signalled intentions to legislate this area. With the recent signature of the statutory rule and order of The Environmental Health Control of Disposable Plastics Regulations 2019 by the Minister of Health Luke Browne.

At Massy Stores, we are mindful of the role that organizations like ours must play to help solve major environmental issues. And so apart from our focus on raising awareness on the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastic bags, and promoting sustainable options, we are continually pursuing many other sustainability initiatives with specific focus on improving the environmental sustainability of our operations. It is no secret that businesses such as ours generate some level of food waste and a lot of packaging material and, here too, we want to be responsible in terms of what we send to the landfill.

I am also pleased to inform you that through these continuing initiatives, and by encouraging our customers and importantly our team members to be more aware of their environmental practices, we can continue to advance the agenda for positive environmental action. We at Massy Stores (SVG) remain committed to doing our part, sharing best practices, listening to stakeholders and collaborating with our diverse, valued customers to be A Force for Good.

We are excited about this partnership with the National Conservation Trust Fund and Action Bequia which we have no doubt will result in projects that will lead towards a greener and cleaner St. Vincent and the Grenadines for generations to come.