Consumers are becoming increasingly in-tune with the environmental impacts of their buying habits.
With this comes an expectation of more than just sustainable product offerings, as consumers are actively seeking retailers that have sustainable values and business practices that mirror their own ideals. Retailers such as Victoria-based homewares and furniture retailer, Eva, are showcasing their green commitment by laying bare their entire social and environmental impact, by adopting globally recognised standards, such as being a 'Certified B Corporation'.
This presents retailers with an opportunity to take sustainability to the next level, by demonstrating how they are living and breathing social values.
However, retailers should take note that simply popping the word 'sustainable' across their branding isn’t going to cut the mustard anymore. Aside from not being ethical, 'fake it till you make it' doesn’t work with clued-up consumers.
After all, it's not just about what you're selling, it's about how…
One of the first places retailers often begin their ‘green’ journey is in packaging and production. Although we agree that these sustainable efforts are critical, there’s so much more ‘green’ kudos to be had.
Here are six green initiatives retailers should consider:
1. Look at your supply chain
Supply chains often involve energy-intensive production and transportation, as products are made and moved around the globe. If retailers take steps to change and challenge their supply chain, they can make a significant difference to their environmental impact.
Non-food retailers can learn from the food trade, which might publicise 'food miles' as part of its sales process, to tell part of their sustainability story to consumers.
Retailers in other sectors could consider communicating the 'miles' their products have travelled, as a way of reinforcing the sustainability narrative.
2. Think 're-commerce'
Consumers are increasingly rejecting the throwaway culture, creating a ‘re-commerce’ market - an emerging trend amongst sellers of apparel, footwear, and accessories.
Companies reselling, or recycling used clothing will soon become the norm, with many offering a take-back scheme and pre-loved purchase options. In addition, rental clothing models are proving to be globally popular with customers who want to spend less on clothing, whilst reducing their environmental impact, such as Australian clothing rental platform, Rntr.
Retailers which take a more holistic view of product life-cycles, beyond production, and offer services which enable consumers to donate, or resell their unwanted items, rather than binning them, will demonstrate their environmental commitment, whilst addressing sustainability concerns.
3. Give products a new lease of life
When it comes to extending the lifecycle of products, offering them a new lease of life by adding repair, alteration, and restoration services could just be the buried 'sustainable' treasure retailers have been searching for.
Retailers need to understand their responsibility in a circular context, going beyond the point of sale, and evaluate whether repair or restoration is not only an opportunity to help reduce a significant amount of environmental impact, but also to attract new consumers.
4. Future proof your products
Something to watch is the emerging standards for giving clothing a ‘digital identity’ or ‘birth stamp’, which uses either RFID tagging or QR codes to store garment information.
Technology standards – such as the Circular Product Data Protocol – will give consumers clarity over product provenance, enabling resellers and recyclers to access, identify, and share essential information. This will also empower consumers to become product and brand custodians.
Although in its infancy, this should extend product longevity, enabling brands to scale circular business models, which will unlock new post-sale services, including 'care and repair services’, resale, and recycling initiatives.
5. Digitise receipts
Being paperless at the till and offering consumers email or digital receipts (via Slyp for example) offers retailers the opportunity to reduce costs, whilst delivering tangible sustainability benefits, such as reducing the use of oil, water and trees used to manufacture paper.
It's a simple switch that could have a significant impact. There may still be pushback on consumers being willing to give their email address, but with clear communications around the positive environmental impact, retailers will appeal to consumer green values.
6. Upcycle IT
Rather than replacing both software andhardware, retailers can explore extending the life of their POS hardware by upcycling it, i.e. running the latest retail software onto legacy hardware.
This allows retailers to unlock the benefits the latest POS and store management systems can offer. Not only does this support their sustainability agenda, it also reduces the total cost of IT ownership, reduces waste, and reinforces their sustainability narrative even further.
Going green doesn't need to be difficult
Sustainability has become a powerful value proposition for increasingly conscious consumers,
But truly delivering against this mantra can present a real headache for retailers - in managing the overall practicalities of operating sustainable processes, such as restocking, repairs, and reselling. This is where retail management systems play a pivotal role in enabling retailers to manage reverse logistics, for example, making it easier to manage circular retail strategies.
Retailers that successfully marry creative and innovative 'green' thinking, with processes and technologies that enable them to manage and deliver on their brand promises, will make huge leaps in ensuring that they stand out from the greenwash crowd.
After all, it's not just about what you're selling, it's about how you sell it!
Retail Directions provides a unified retail management software platform that enables retailers to simplify retail operations, reduce operating costs, and deliver seamless experiences for consumers and staff. To find out more about making retail easier, and using technology to help tackle staff shortages, get in touch for a demo of the Retail Directions platform.