Iain Ferguson


Having worked for the Co-op for 30 years, Iain is one of retail packaging’s most respected members. His remit is to ensure that the Co-op is “doing the right thing” when it comes to sustainability – encompassing everything from food packaging to food waste. Under his stewardship, the Co-op has made a number of radical changes to the way in which it packages food and produce (below).

Iain chairs WRAP’S Rationalisation of Packaging Committee and is a board member of RECOUP. He is regularly invited to Government forums advising on issues of packaging and the environment. Iain was shortlisted as a finalist in the EDIE Sustainability Leaders Awards 2018 and in May, retail bible The Grocer also named as one of the “Ten Most Powerful People in Packaging”, which was followed by him collecting a prestigious Grocer Gold award for The Green Initiative of the Year in June.

Key career milestones:

  • In 2005 Iain’s extensive work on tissue boxes saw the Co-op change plastic diaphragms to paper ones – Co-op tissues are still the only product with this feature.
  • In 2006 Iain worked tirelessly to replace plastic stems in Co-op’s cotton buds to paper ones – it has taken 11 years for this to be adopted by other retailers.
  • In 2011 Iain became part of the team that wrote the original BRC-IOP Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials.
  • The Co-op was also the first retailer to Graduate from WWF’s Global Forestry and Trade Network in 2011 – Iain led the Co-op on moving to FSC and achieving this significant accolade.​
  • In 2012 Iain led the way on lightening the colour of the Co-op’s milk bottle tops making them easier to recycle and ensuring less contamination. This has created an extra 4,500 tonnes of extra recyclable plastic per year. Many other retailers followed suit after the Co-op made these simple changes.
  • In 2014 he led on the introduction of compostable carrier bags in 400 stores, making the Co-op the first high street retailer to offer such a bag.
  • In 2016 he worked to ensure the Co-op was first retailer to sign up to the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP).
  • In 2017 under Iain’s recommendation, the Co-op replaced polystyrene pizza boards with cardboard ones saving 200 tonnes of poly-board going to landfill. In the same year, he was an intrinsic part of the team that introduced the Co-op’s pledge to make 100% of its packaging recyclable with an interim goal of 80% by 2020.
  •  In February 2018, under Iain’s stewardship the Co-op announced the trial of Co-op biodegradable tea bags which could prevent nine tonnes of plastic from being dumped into household rubbish every year. And in April Iain’s team also announced plans to switch all Co-op bottled water to 50% recycled plastic (rPET) which could save 350 tonnes of plastic annually.
  • In July 2018, his design thinking led to the introduction of fully recyclable sushi packaging with no black plastic, but still with great shelf impact
  • November 2018 saw the roll-out of compostable carrier bags to over 1,000 Co-op food stores in communities across the UK – this move alone saving an estimated 60M single use plastic bags