Sustainability – The Future of Retail

Sustainability – The Future of Retail

Sustainability – The Future of Retail 1440 428 ASG

The June 2021 PwC Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey of more than 8,600 consumers in 22 territories revealed that 59% are more price-oriented and 50% are more eco-friendly. Sustainability can be exemplified in many ways, but retail sits at the juxtaposition between manufacturer and consumer and has a powerful seat at the table when it comes to driving the kind of change consumers expect, making it a perfect time to be a sustainability leader. 

As consumers seek products that cause minimal environmental harm and bring about positive social impact, and as awareness of supply chain impact grows, retailers must embrace sustainability. Given their unique position in the supply chain between upstream suppliers and downstream consumers, retailers are key to a circular economy in which products at the initial end-of-life stage are returned to the supply chain for continued use. By serving as a connection between suppliers and consumers, retail initiatives can help to reduce, reuse, and recycle. –Science Direct

The problem? Less than half of all retailers have sustainability goals, and a full 35% have no supply chain sustainability goals whatsoever according to an MIT study.


Consumers Are Paying Attention

Companies are now evaluated not only by the scope and quality of its products or services, but by how it gives back and what it’s doing to make the world a better place. If your retail or e-commerce business isn’t on board, you’re all but sure to be overshadowed by environmentally conscious competitors. – Inc.com

Documentaries, like The Blue Planet have awakened consumer awareness about plastics, and climate change awareness has escalated the level of concern from consumers to the point where this is no turning back for retailers. Sustainability must be part of your business model going forward. From food to fashion, ecommerce to brick and mortar, consumers are watching you.


You Will Lose Customers If You Don’t Act

In a recent McKinsey survey, 67% of respondents say that sustainability impacts their buying decisions in fashion retail. And in a Kerry survey of more than 14,000 consumers, 49% took sustainability into consideration when buying food and drinks. 

Sustainability in retail is here to stay, but such a commitment must be more than just words on a page. A genuine commitment to the environment needs to be reflected in every part of your supply chain and the decisions you make regarding how and from where you are sourcing ingredients, who you’re hiring to make your clothing, and how you’re treating people and the environment along the way. Consumers want to see not just a goal to be carbon neutral by 2035 but the steps you’re taking to ensure you can achieve that.


Tips for Improving Sustainability in Retail

Improving sustainability requires a willingness to do business differently. You need to examine every business element, from where you’re locating your brick-and-mortar stores to green shipping options. Eradicate plastic. Reward consumers for ‘going green’ (pick-up vs. shipping; digital receipt vs. printed). Use raw materials whenever possible. Partner with recycling companies to eliminate food and product waste. And embrace the longstanding mantra to recycle, reuse, and repurpose as much as you can. 


5 Retailers Getting it Right

Consumers are looking for measurable changes. Some retailers are ahead of the game and others are starting to see the light. These retailers are delivering:

  • PriceChopper has partnered with Invafresh to prevent 20 tons of fresh food from being wasted each week.
  • Levi’s is a leader in reducing chemical and water use in products – and they’re sharing those techniques with others in the industry. (Forbes)
  • Rothy’s is a retailer designed with sustainability and equity in mind. They say business “starts by putting the planet and its people first.”
  • Tentree plants ten trees for every item purchased. “Tentree’s clothing is made from ethically sourced and sustainable materials including cork, coconut, and recycled polyester and produced in ethical factories.”  (Forbes)

True sustainability practices are not just about sourced materials but rather a dedication to an initiative that goes beyond business objectives. There’s no time to delay in establishing your sustainability objectives and taking action to achieve them.


So, How Do We Redefine Retail for the Consumer?

The obvious answer is that consumers are the ones redefining retail, and we just need to listen. But I think it begins by redefining retail priorities. And this is where the combined power of ASG + Chute really shines. Not only do you need to understand how consumers are shopping more in their own neighborhoods, but you need to understand that the store you design and the holistic experience you deliver can’t be driven off the flagship store you build in NYC. You need flexible store designs that can be modified to meet the local need – sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, and always with a local feel. And you can’t invest as much in the up-front design process. Instead, you must embrace an iterative process where you get it out there, learn, and refine.