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Top sustainable practices in retail

Sustainable retail practices are currently one of the most talked-about topics in the business world. As companies strive to satisfy the demands of a more ecologically… View Article


Top sustainable practices in retail

Sustainable retail practices are currently one of the most talked-about topics in the business world. As companies strive to satisfy the demands of a more ecologically aware and morally upright consumer, sustainability is rapidly becoming an integral aspect of retail marketing strategies. 

According to Travelperk, more people than ever before are prepared to pay a premium for environmentally friendly products because climate change is a major concern for Generation Z, boomers, and everyone in between. Half of all consumers rank sustainability as an important factor when making a purchase decision. On top of that, 85% of investors think about environmental sustainability when making investment decisions.

Retailers are under significant pressure to align their operations with these evolving standards. By embracing sustainability and investing in sustainable retail practices, companies are safeguarding their revenue stream, responding to stakeholder and consumer expectations, and staying ahead of trends. In order to meet the expectations of stakeholders and customers alike in the future, retailers must adopt sustainable practices.

In this blog, we will cover the best sustainable practices in retail and provide solutions that will enable the retail sector to come up with a complete sustainability framework. We will explore measures which retailers can take to reduce their carbon footprints and provide them with a competitive edge in the market, from adopting eco-friendly packaging to using clean energy solutions. 

So let’s look into these sustainable practices in retail and production and see how you can get your business to implement them.  

Get ahead of the curve, benefit the planet and lead your company into growth and innovation.

How to be sustainable in retail: From production to the shop floor

In order to achieve sustainability the retail industry must activate a battery of nutrients that nourish various parts of the business. Rather than just reducing plastic bag usage, retailers must incorporate sustainability into every step of the process, from sourcing and production to distribution and in-store practices. In particular, there seem to be four areas that retailers should focus on if they want to be around for the long haul.

Let’s look into them in more detail:

  • The importance of the resale market– A secondary market is expanding as consumers grow aware of their ecological footprint. Through reselling merchandise, retailers can lengthen the life of products, avoid waste and fulfil consumers’ growing call for second-hand products. In addition to eco-conscious consumers being drawn to this offering, it introduces retailers to new revenue opportunities. It will not only release some of the company’s existing capital, but also help the retailer establish a greener reputation. Platforms dedicated purely to the second-hand market are on the rise across a wide variety of industries.
  • Embedding sustainability across supply chain operations– Supply chains lie at the heart of sustainable retail operations. Sustainability means using responsible materials, conducting labour ethically, and carbonising as little as possible. This can be achieved through partnerships with other suppliers, use of recycled materials and reduction of carbon emissions. These are three key elements for retailers striving to be more sustainable. By conducting regular audits and ensuring transparency in how a supply chain is operated, businesses can ensure that the highest standards are maintained and maintain the trust of consumers who seek more information.
  • Leveraging technology for sustainability- Sustainability in retail is accelerated by technology like Green Initiative for LED Commercial Lighting & Smart HVAC Systems. Technology can also be used to track and analyse sustainability metrics, which then helps retailers identify non-compliant points and monitor their progress towards sustainable objectives. Navigating retail digital transformation challenges is crucial as retailers adopt these new technologies to enhance their sustainability efforts.
  • Adhering to ESG regulations and frameworks- Modern retailers must comply with the ESG regulations and frameworks. These are a set of principles of ESG in which a business has to qualify to check whether it is able to demonstrate that it is environmentally friendly, takes care of social responsibility and has ethical governance. Meeting these guidelines is anticipated to lessen the risks of non-compliance and boost a retailer’s standing among investors, especially those who are prioritising sustainability. Retailers must also stay current with emerging ESG guidelines and ensure they are being factored appropriately into business strategies and show dedication to sustainability. For instance, Harrods’ first ESG report sets bold sustainability targets for the future, showcasing a commitment to these principles and serving as a benchmark for the industry.

Top sustainable practices in retail

To help retailers navigate the path to sustainability in the retail industry, here are some top initiatives to consider:

  • Go paperless (Email Receipts)-In 2023, 64% of UK consumers were trying to cut back on single-use plastic. Both the plastic and paper waste reduction efforts are crucial. A simple way to reduce waste is to switch to email receipts. Digital solutions such as electronic receipts and online inventory management cut down on paper use and help with workflows. This seemingly little change has the potential to significantly lessen your retail store’s impact on the environment by decreasing carbon emissions, and landfill waste and helping forest conservation.
  • Switch to sustainable packaging – The demand for eco-friendly packaging is on the rise. Choose materials that can be recycled, composted or are reusable. Creating sustainable packaging can decrease the amount of waste you produce and attract eco-friendly shoppers while simultaneously helping your brand improve its reputation.
  • Consider clean energy options – In terms of carbon reduction, switching to solar is one of the best investments you can do! Smaller retailers can improve their energy efficiency through simple changes like installing energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting.
  • Promote repairs and returns– Encouraging people to fix instead of throw also raises product life and lessens waste. Adding repair services and a simple return process helps create a robust customer experience, which in return helps the business form customer loyalty that is bound to last.
  • Recycle and donate unsold Stock – Recycling and donating leftover products instead of sending them to the dump is a great way to reduce waste. Burberry, for example, made headlines in 2018 by burning some of their unsold stock to prevent it from being sold cheaply.
  • Offset logistics & shipping – Investing in carbon offset programs for logistics and shipping can help mitigate environmental impact. Offering customers carbon-neutral shipping options can also enhance your brand’s appeal to eco-conscious consumers.
  • Improve your waste management – A waste audit can point you to opportunities for doing better. By incorporating recycling programs and minimising needless waste, you can take the big picture approach to advancing your sustainability.
  • Consider the rental business model– The need to manufacture and dispose of new products on a regular basis can be reduced through the adoption of a rental model. The model enables a circular economy and provides a source for customers in search of more sustainable options.
  • Implement a buy-back programme – Customers can now trade in their old products for new ones through this innovative programme. In addition to reducing trash, this solution helps eco-conscious businesses not only announce their usage of recycled materials to the world but also foster long-term relationships with their customers.
  • Offer carbon-neutral shipping options– Businesses can empower their customers by enabling them to choose to be more environmentally responsible. Displaying these options as part of the checkout process, could raise environmental awareness and, ultimately, result in a smaller carbon footprint
  • Invest or sponsor green initiatives– Investment or sponsorship of some green initiatives might be your pledge for sustainability. It comes in all shapes and sizes, from local environmental projects to global sustainability programs. The Co-op has issued strong new sustainability and social targets as part of a proactive stance on positive impact. Read more on Co-op’s sustainability targets here.
  • Choose responsible suppliers– It is really important to choose suppliers who are committed to sustainability. If you choose to source sustainable products, make sure that your suppliers follow ethical practices and use responsible materials. In doing this you will cut down the environmental impact of your supply chain.
  • Use efficient and environmentally friendly supply chain processes– The supply chain is the backbone of environmentally responsible retail operations. Sustainable materials, ethical labour, and minimal carbon emissions are all requirements for the manufacturing of its products. Sustainability initiatives, such as retailer-supplier partnerships to increase recycled material consumption and decrease carbon emissions, are putting retailers’ limited resources to good use. 

In order to attract customers who nowadays say “I want more information,” businesses will have to live up to higher expectations; audits and supply chain transparency are two ways to achieve this standard. 

We can observe how environmentally conscious actions can be effectively incorporated into retail operations by looking at The Perfume Shop as an example. The Perfume Shop is well on its way to becoming a sustainable brand. From using recyclable materials in their packaging to energy-efficiency systems in their stores, they serve as an example of sustainability transformation in retail.

 As more and more customers demand that businesses play their role when it comes to the planet, The Perfume Shop is leading by example with a sustainable model that the rest of the industry must now follow. 

If you are looking for additional UK-related information on sustainability in retail take a look at the latest intelligence from BRC

Final thoughts

Sustainability has become a constant that retailers can’t afford to ignore. More and more, consumers are looking for sustainable brands and stakeholder initiatives. New government regulations are making it mandatory to launch sustainability initiatives. Through adopting best practices for sustainability retailers can boost their environmental responsibility and gain a competitive edge. 

For more information on upcoming regulations, refer to the Responsible Business Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.

Stay ahead of the competition and be the driver of a better future. Gain valuable insights from industry experts and retail leaders on how to integrate sustainability into your retail strategy at ‘The Retail Conference‘ on November 6th, 2024. Book now to secure your spot. 

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