Sustainability In Retail

Sustainability In Retail

Sustainability in retail has become increasingly an area of much discussion recently and is gathering increasing momentum. Not only is it crucial to protect the environment, but it is also a key way to attract consumers and drive long-term brand loyalty.

What Do Customer Expect?

Without a doubt customers are asking questions with regards to how retailers practice sustainability.

It is a subject that all demographics of customers are interested in.

Increasingly consumers are seeking brands that champion values which align with their own.  A recent survey* showing 52% of millennials, 48% of Gen Xers and 35% of Baby Boomers feeling it’s important that their values align with the retailers they purchase from.

Why Should Retailers Focus on Sustainability?

The size of the retail industry globally is huge and far-reaching.  As is its ability to have an impact on the environment both in a positive or negative way.   If we take just a few examples for Example, Pollution.  The clothing and textile industry account for **10% of global carbon and areas such as costly and wasteful giftwrapping services with estimates of packaging accounting for nearly half of the 85 million tons of paper consumed in the US.

Transparency versus Public Relations

Retailers discussing sustainability at a recent retail conference where very excited about the difference their business was making to the environment with much said about small and large initiatives which have been taking place for many years.   However, what is a balancing act is to navigate between transparency of actions, communicating all the fantastic initiatives which are taking place.

How Can Retailers Be More Sustainable

Retailers are today impacting sustainability in so many ways across their organizations and processes

  • Product & Packaging Composition
    • There are many examples worldwide of retailers and manufacturers committing to using sustainable materials in product and packaging materials.
  • Supplier Selection & Measurement of sustainability practices
    • Supplier sourcing has always been a focus for many retailers. With many retailers focusing on the right systems to help them measure the suppliers sustainable and ethical practices
  • Store Design
    • Sustainable store design is proving an opportunity for many retailers to showcase visibly their commitment to retail sustainability. What is interesting is that examples of this can be seen across the retail spectrum from designer stores to food outlets and Fast fashion some great examples include
      • Stella McCartney London store which embodies and showcases sustainable store design across four floors
      • Ikea in Greenwich which has solar panel roofs and harvest rainwater
      • Starbucks LEED stores Leadership in energy and environmental design
      • Lush, Naked stores in Berlin, Manchester & Milan aiming to go plastic free.
    • Product Distribution
      • Everything from assortment, allocation, replenishment & transfers using solutions which ensure that the product will reach the end customer most effectively and have the least impact on the environment. By getting the stock to the right place and using the most efficient systems to achieve this.
    • Direct Deliveries, Returns & Recycling policies
      • Many retailers are trying to reward consumers who are more considered in how they receive direct deliveries to their homes and process returns in order to encourage a positive impact on the environment
      • A great example is how H&M Have incorporated recycling into future sales with the H&M Global Garment Collection Program which encourages re-wear, reuse & recycle. Every bag of clothes a customer brings back. Receive 15% off their next in store purchases
    • Raising awareness of activities which are taking place
      • Retailers have a voice they have prolific followers and often great brand loyalty so by communicating what they are doing locally and globally and behind the scenes it helps spread the word and encourage other retailers and consumers to support their efforts.