Selling sustainability in retail, starting with your staffBY Australian Retailers Association
Building a sustainable retail worker induction should be a key tenet of your business’ commitment to its environmental values. This way, new employees are educated on sustainability from day one.
Sustainability is an increasingly important issue across all business sectors, and retail is no exception. However, to build a truly sustainable business, buy-in must come from all levels, starting with new employees!
You’ve likely already considered the relevant and obvious sustainability issues that are specific to your business, from raw materials, practices by suppliers, distribution, and transportation to consumer use and the ultimate disposal of your products. But have you considered your induction program?
An effective induction program embeds your core business principles with staff, starting from day one. It helps you to attract and retain employees, build and reinforce customer trust, and can ultimately increase your brand’s overall standing in the retail market. Investing in a robust and sustainable retail e-learning and induction program is a positive decision for your staff, your customers, and your business.
When delivering a truly sustainable induction, the obvious first port of call is your delivery method. In the past, new employees were likely handed a mountain of paper. This usually sat on the shelf gathering dust, rather than being read, digested, and ultimately appropriately recycled. This wastes a lot of paper, especially when online inductions are a modern, cost-effective, streamlined alternative – and far more engaging, helping to do away with employee induction fatigue. It also allows you to track (and prove) user participation, progress and completion. So, assess whether you need to print documents for new starters, or deliver it to them online. After all, the best way to reduce waste is to create no waste at all!
Naturally, your induction program should include information that delivers and reinforces your core business values, including sustainability, and how these values are practiced on a day-to-day basis to grow your reputation as a sustainable business from the ground up. It positions your business in the way you want it to be seen (and sold) to customers – consider the differences in personality between a large corporate entity and smaller, nimbler boutique businesses.
A sustainable retail induction has the added benefit of appropriately aligning the skills and attitudes of new employees with your business culture, allowing staff to integrate more quickly with your existing workforce. Each employee has a role to play when upholding the key tenets of your sustainability program – whether that be reducing paper use, turning off unnecessary power points, or agreeing to disagree about the heating and cooling settings.
Included in the induction should be information surrounding the ‘digitisation’ of key day to day business operations, for example, providing customers with digital receipts. Many retail customers may not have encountered digital receipts or maybe averse to providing their details for reasons of privacy or risk of being contacted for marketing purposes. However, the benefits of email receipts not only save paper, but customers are also less likely to lose receipts, and your business details can be kept on file for refunds, returns, or future purchases.
A focused, customised induction, with a regular employee review process and accompanying action plan, can also be used to set goals within your workforce so that all employees have tangible targets to work towards. Instead of vague statements such as ‘reduce waste,’ make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). Being specific can go a long way towards increasing the collective buy-in of your workforce, demonstrating to employees the very real impact of their actions, and helping you to measure the impact of your business on the environment.
Of course, leading from the front is the best way to ensure your business values are successfully implemented. If you and your business are committed, then your entire workforce needs the appropriate help and advice to operate your business more sustainably – everyone from the Manager to your Christmas casuals should be able to articulate and demonstrate your core business values easily.
Implementing simple core practices within your business, such as a sustainable retail induction, can help you ingrain environmental values in your employees from their first day on the job; and by being ‘greener,’ your business will save money, attract and retain the right employees and increase your reputation amongst customers.
If you sell the concept to your staff correctly, you could ultimately increase customer perception of your brand, and ultimately everyone’s buy-in!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Australian Retailers Association
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.