Awards Profile – Sustainability Champion

Team effort is the solution for success

The Premier @ DUSA team accept the award for Sustainability Champion at the Scottish Grocer Awards with John Leslie of Britvic and Scots comedian Elaine C Smith.
Premier @ DUSA was named the Sustainability Champion at the Scottish Grocer Awards 2023.

Winner: Premier @ DUSA

Team members of Premier @ DUSA
Retail operations manager Moira Dean ensures every section of the DUSA store is as sustainable as possible.

Sustainability Champion supported by Britvic

Interview with Moira Dean, retail operations manager

SAVING the planet must always be a team effort, whether this be for the largest corporations or for the household recycling.

We only have the one world and we all share it, so the onus remains on us that we, as a collective, need to work together to ensure we look after it.

Nowhere is there a better example of this than at Premier @ DUSA. Operating as a non-profit organisation as part of Dundee University, the store makes up one part of the cyclical nature of the campus, which helps to give back to the students and ensure everyone benefits.

All profits made by the store go back into the Dundee University community, helping to support the campus’ wider sustainability goals as well as provide students with a local shop that meets every demand of the students.

Sustainable DUSA hoodies
Signs are dotted across the store, highlighting and education customers about the sustainable nature of the products.

Moira Dean, retail operations manager at Premier @ DUSA, said: “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. It’s the first thing we consider when we bring new products into the shop. We always do our research in making sure it is a sustainable product.

“We are a charity, so we are a bit limited in what we can do infrastructure-wise, so it’s not just about the big things for us such as lighting or solar panels for helping to save electricity, it’s about everything needing to be sustainable being integrated into the store in what we sell and what we do.

“Every single thing in the shop we have, we always think to ourselves, is there a sustainable angle we can take with it?”

This planet-first attitude has proven time and time again the dedication of the staff at Premier @ DUSA and saw the whole team rewarded for their efforts when they picked up the Sustainability Champion gong at the Scottish Grocer Awards 2023.

Reverse vending machine at DUSA.
The team at DUSA do their best to educate consumers about the benefits of sustainable practices.

Everything the store sells, whether this be soap, soft drinks or even university-branded clothing, gets considered and then will be put on shelf when it has been found to be sustainable.

To highlight this, Moira worked with the uni to ensure the materials used to make the campus clothing was sustainable.

She said: “We sell a monster amount of clothing at the store such as lab coats, hoodies or sports outfits and, when I first came here, we worked to change all of this to sustainable cotton.

“We have just introduced the brand new sports shorts to the store, as well, which are all created with vegan materials as well as recycled plastics.

“And beyond that, we helped to bring in more reusable coffee cups to campus, a focus on non-BPA plastics and putting water fountains in across the store. Absolutely everything that comes in to the shop has to have a sustainable angle to it.”

While the focus on products in store remains impressive, the team doesn’t stop there.

Around every corner of this shop, sustainability has been called out and brought to the forefront, with handmade materials that tell the sustainability story of products directly to students.

Around the store, consumers will find small cards that will explain what makes certain products sustainable and how choosing it supports the planet, helping to educate those who shop here.

Refill station for cleaning products.
Students can also refill their health and beauty products at DUSA’s refill station.

And it’s this education that Moira believes is of the utmost importance. With a more unique consumer base of students, the team at DUSA have a four-year period to help teach students an extra lesson on top of their studies and show just how important, and easy, it can be to make simple sustainable changes.

Moira said: “Teaching the students is so important to us. We have Christine, our staff member, write out all our information cards, which are just little snippets, so it doesn’t feel like it’s in your face.

“And it’s not just the students we get in, we’ve had members of staff or parents visiting who will come in and see our ranges, like our friendly soaps. They find these brands, see why it’s important and know they can stick with it going forward and going on to buy it in other stores.”

It’s certainly hard to miss these products across the store, as well, as Moira and the team are sure to give prime siting to the eco items, such as end-of-aisle shelves, which bring in extra attention to the brands.

Further to this, Moira has worked with sustainable wholesaler Epicurium to bring in a host of planet-friendly products to try with her customers and this range is among the first things shoppers see when they enter the store.

Moira said: “It’s not just about encouraging shoppers to make the change, it’s to let them know that it is an option available to them.”

Sustainably made drinks brands.
The team has a good working relationship with sustainability wholesaler Epicurium.

While this certainly keeps the store’s plates full, that doesn’t stop Moira from going that extra mile – Premier @ DUSA even has an electric van – when it comes to catering to the local student population, especially for the international community.

Moira said: “We do get a lot of international students at the university, coming from all across the world, including Asia, Europe, as well as Africa.

“So we want to make sure they can feel at home here in Scotland. Even when the weather doesn’t always deliver for them, we know we can provide something extra.

“So we’ve been working with a local guy, he’s based just five minutes away from the store, and we’ve asked him to work with us on a more bespoke range of ready meals for the store that are catered to more international students’ palates.

“He was keen to take on the challenge and it means students get a taste of home.

“So we’ve agreed with him that we will not bring it in over the summer but, instead, we’re waiting until September to introduce the range, which means Freshers from across the world can still have an authentic taste of home and we can do a proper student launch in store as well.

“Not only do we want to bring their home to them here in Scotland, but we want them to feel like they’re a part of this home, of this community here in Dundee.”

And for the future, this focus on the university community is set to remain for the team at DUSA, not necessarily a next step or goal on a sustainability journey, but a constant support in building on the incredibly strong foundations that have already been put down.

Moira said: “We don’t think, ‘Right what is the next step on the journey?’ It’s about ongoing improvement, we’ll be constantly searching for whatever we can build upon to strengthen our sustainable nature.

“For example, we are currently looking at bringing in some doors to our chillers to save energy but, at the same time, we’re doing our own research and looking everywhere to see what else we can be doing to help support the planet.”

Premier @ DUSA store front.
The Dundee University campus store makes sure students receive an education on sustainability throughout their degrees.