Innovation, Opinion

Why supermarket Waitrose is ditching perfection and prioritising progress

Sue Barrett /

We live in a world that often promotes perfection or the idealised state — the perfect body, the perfect marriage or relationship, the perfect career, the perfect mind, the perfect way to be sustainable, and so on. 

Our relationship with perfection and progress can be rather fraught.

We can be forgiven for thinking that perfection is actually attainable.

Winston Churchill was right when he said: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

However, anyone who has strived for perfection often ends up leading a life of misery because achieving a perfected state is unrealistic on an individual and societal level. 

Taking a perfectionistic stance can also lead to limited or no progress, making us worse off than we were before, if people get it into their heads that if it’s not perfect, then we might as well do nothing. And that is not good for anyone. 

Often criticising people for having a go, these perfectionists sit in judgement of those of us who are trying to progress, move forward and work out how to do things better. These people often question our motives and intentions and call us out for not doing it properly in the first place for whatever deranged reason.

A recent kerfuffle

Waitrose is best described as a responsible sourcing supermarket chain that supplies fresh food, groceries, flowers, cellar products and so on. 

In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, Tony Naylor, a Manchester-based journalist, had a crack at Waitrose for going plastic bag free and called it a “PR move that will change little”. 

The backlash from this article was quite something. 

Waitrose is committed to responsible sourcing, reducing and removing unnecessary packaging. In this case they were experimenting with packaging-free shopping that became an obvious win for the supermarket chain. It decided to sell about 200 loose lines to shoppers at its Oxford store. This meant that shoppers can now use their own containers to take home rice, pasta, lentils, cleaning products and so on — a growing trend called ‘unpackaged’ which is about zero-waste shops and the rise of refillable wine and beer. 

What’s the kerfuffle I hear you ask?

It was the criticism by Tony Naylor saying this change is a PR move and is so insignificant why bother that got people really riled up. 

Well Tony, every little action counts, and thousands and millions of people making millions of little, positive, imperfect actions of change every day make a huge difference to our collective future. 

At least Waitrose and its customers are trying to do something constructive for our environment and our communities. It’s certainly better than nothing. 

As Sali Hughes pointed out in the comments section: “Perfection is the enemy of progress. I can’t stand this constant whinging that doing nothing is more righteous than doing something imperfect.”

Everything and everyone is imperfect by nature and it is in our nature to move forward and progress.

It’s all of us who can make a difference every day. 

Waiting on governments and corporations alone to carry out the necessary changes will limit or halt our progress towards a better future. 

As ‘Tintenfische’ also writes in the comments section of the same article:

“Climate disaster will only be averted if we change our behaviour ourselves. It simply will not work if you devolve responsibility for action from us to corporations. There’s too much profit to be made not just by the supermarkets in providing the freshest produce but the producers of the packaging too. Modern plastic wrap is a complex seven layered laminate. Millions upon millions have gone into perfecting it. There is simply no chance that those companies will acquiesce and go quietly, they’ll push and they’ll push and they’ll push and the supermarkets will give in because it is us with our desire for perfect unblemished fruit, meat, veg and fish that will drive them to do so. Any increase in costs will simply be factored into the price we pay and added to inflationary pressure.

“It is our behaviour that is forcing climate change and unless we are educated and compelled ourselves to change the way we live then there is no averting climate disaster. Dreaming that it’ll be chastised corporations which will save us is simply wasting time.

“It’s us not them. It’s us that needs to change.”

With the advent of social media and speed of connection and communication, we can rally together and do our bit. We can show people how they can act locally to make a positive difference.

Ask what you can do now?

Your actions don’t have to be perfect to make a positive difference.

Many of the significant changes and innovations in the world came about by accident or making mistakes.

Forget about perfection and focus on progress because we can all be agents of positive change.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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Sue Barrett

Sue is a selling better strategist and advisor, sales philosopher and speaker, sales trainer and coach, writer and activist. Sue is chief executive of forward thinking sales advisory Barrett and online sales education and resource platform www.salesessentials.com. Barrett develops sales strategies, standards and education that help people and businesses sell better.

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