Our History of Doing it Right

Iceland has always been a responsible retailer, committed to ‘doing the right thing’

Disrupting the market to bring about change – from Frankenstein Food to saving the ozone layer

Like all supermarkets, we have a range of policies in place to ensure our business operates in a way that is fair and safe. However, the fact that we are a privately owned family company gives us the agility to act quickly on things that matter.

As far back as 1980s we became the first UK supermarket to remove artificial colourings, flavourings, non-essential preservatives and monosodium glutamate from our own brand products, two decades before many of our major rivals. In 1990 we banned mechanically recovered meat (MRM) from all Iceland own label foods and in 1999 Iceland became the first supermarket to ban eggs containing artificial colours used in hen food from its shelves.

Pioneering GreenFreeze technology

In the 1980s the Iceland board became concerned about the impact of ‘greenhouse gases’ used in refrigeration, because of their effect on the ozone layer.

As a result, Iceland pioneered the recycling of refrigerants. A decade later the business partnered with Greenpeace, whose German team had pioneered a refrigerator prototype that was efficient and good for the environment, the ozone layer and the climate. This used a mix of natural hydrocarbons, known as ‘GreenFreeze’ technology, and Greenpeace needed a way to fight against the chemical industry lobby and bring the new technology to market.

In 1998, Iceland developed a new range of Kyoto fridges and freezers endorsed by Greenpeace and began to sell them on the high street at affordable prices. The business encouraged other manufacturers to match the new technology and six months later Electrolux, Ariston/Indesit, Hoover, Candy and Whirlpool had all agreed to sell green products through Iceland stores. Meanwhile Hotpoint, the only supplier to refuse, was delisted. This helped to kickstart the use of GreenFreeze technology in the UK.

The success of the Greenpeace campaign internationally means that it is predicted that nearly 80% of production will be using the GreenFreeze inspired technology by 2020.  Meanwhile a UN study has revealed that the ozone layer is slowly recovering, and is even expected to be fully repaired by the 2060s.

Fighting for consumers on GM food

In 1999 Iceland made history when we became the first national food retailer globally to guarantee that our complete own label range was free of genetically modified ingredients.

With public unease growing about the health and environmental implications around GM food, Iceland’s founder Malcolm Walker led a successful campaign to stop its arbitrary introduction into the UK food chain. This gained the public support of campaigning groups like the Consumers Association, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – and was taken up by other retailers and food manufacturers.

We have also worked hard to meet Government guidelines to reduce salt and sugar content.

The Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation – using philanthropy to leverage change

For over 30 years, the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation (IFCF) has worked independently from the Iceland business to lead pioneering campaigns in support of its mission: to make life better for people. It the last 10 years alone it has raised over £23 million for good causes.

In the 1990s Iceland was the first UK supermarket to work with the National Missing Persons Helpline to feature missing children on its milk bottles. In 2019, milk bottles are again being used to promote awareness of sepsis, after IFCF awarded the Sepsis Trust a substantial grant to help fulfil their aims of raising public awareness of sepsis, with the aim of preventing 14,000 unnecessary deaths each year.

IFCF has committed over £15 million to help beat dementia since 2011, and has also supported the training of over 23,000  Iceland retail colleagues to become Dementia Friends. In 2018  IFCF fulfilled its pledge to donate a total of £10 million to fund the London hub of the new UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL, a year ahead of schedule; a further £10 million was raised for this project by the UCL Retail Partnership, created by Iceland Executive Chairman Sir Malcolm Walker, which brought together nine retailers pledged to donate some or all of their revenues from the sale of single-use carrier bags to dementia research.

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The Iceland family – a workforce to be proud of

We have always sought to treat our colleagues with respect, and to reward them as well as we can. Our success is reflected in our ranking among the Best Big Companies to Work For in the UK for an amazing 12 consecutive years, including two years at Number One.

Iceland has featured in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For survey for the last 13 years and was ranked No. 8 in 2019. We continued to be ranked Number One for giving our staff a Fair Deal – as we have been in each of the last seven years.

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