Sustainability in retail has been put in the spotlight, with more and more consumers indicating that they prefer to buy eco-friendly products.
According to Salsify’s “Consumer Research 2022” report, nearly a quarter of surveyed shoppers across the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany want to know where product ingredients were sourced and/or made before buying the product in question. An average of 40% of consumers across the four markets also research the packaging information and recyclability before purchasing a product.
Given these conditions, it’s increasingly critical for brand manufacturers and retailers to prioritize sustainability.
Taking action to implement eco-friendly practices throughout every aspect of your operations — from your supply chain to your internal business — can have a major impact on the ongoing climate change crisis, while also empowering you to maintain customer trust and loyalty.
Here are three practices you can start implementing today to achieve sustainability in retail:
1. Ensure Your Supply Chain Meets Desired Sustainability Standards
Regularly evaluating your supply chain is critical to your sustainability efforts. The suppliers and warehouses you use likely leverage a variety of different resources, which may produce unnecessary waste.
Aiming to minimize environmental harm from energy use, water consumption, and waste production can have long-term positive impacts on the planet.
Supply Chain Sustainability Questions
Consider asking the following types of questions to ensure your supply chain is aligned with your sustainability efforts and concerns:
- Do your suppliers (across all tiers) adhere to social and environmental standards?
- Do their factories have the necessary sustainability certifications?
- Are your products manufactured using water appropriately?
- If applicable, are animals raised in a way that minimizes their impact on the environment?
- Are any relevant chemicals processed in energy-efficient plants?
Sustainability Tactics for Brands and Retailers
According to the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, many organizations currently apply multiple practices in their sustainability efforts. Common tactics include introducing:
- Company and supplier codes of conduct;
- Supplier collaboration;
- Sustainability standards and certification;
- Improvements in visibility and traceability;
- Supplier audits;
- Supply chain mapping exercises;
- Supplier benchmarking;
- Third-party verifications;
- Supplier training programs; and
- Collaborations with non-profit organizations and other third parties.
Once you assess where your supply chain stands in its sustainability efforts, consider which of the above steps you can start taking to meet your long-term goals.
Develop a detailed plan of action you can share with the entire organization.
2. Evaluate Your Product Ingredients and Materials on a Regular Basis
As mentioned above, product ingredients and materials are one of the key factors affecting consumers’ selection processes and buying decisions.
Brands should highlight this information on their product detail pages (PDPs) — and regularly conduct evaluations to ensure their product content is accurate and up to date.
If you’re selling homeware, consider how you can leverage sustainable materials like:
- Bamboo; and
If you’re selling clothing, consider how you can use eco-friendly fabrics made out of materials like:
- Organic cotton;
- Linen; and
Gather&See is an excellent example of a fashion retailer that prioritizes ethical sourcing. The retailer works exclusively with brands that meet at least two of their six philosophies: eco-friendly, heritage, fair trade, organic, small-scale production, and vegan.
By highlighting this information on their website, Gather&See provides consumers with the information they’re seeking when it comes to the origins of each item and the associated production process. This is great to create brand transparency and help consumers make an informed choice based on the values that matter most to them.
When you’re transparent about your product materials and sustainability approach, your customers will understand your purpose — making them more willing to trust your organization and support your efforts in making measurable environmental change.
3. Use Environmentally Friendly Product Packaging
Many consumers have been trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle products as well as packaging materials to contribute to sustainability in retail.
So, why not make it easier for them to do that? One good practice is to invest in recyclable, compostable, and reusable product packaging.
Take Anthropologie as an example. The clothing retailer makes a lot of effort to offer sustainable packaging. Their goal is to use all “single-stream” recyclable paper bags made of 80% post-consumer waste for in-store purchases, 100% post-consumer waste paper stock for all retail price tickets, and tissue paper made from at least 60% post-consumer recycled content for gift wrapping.
Other retailers like Kroger have made similar sustainable packaging commitments. The Kroger Our Brands Recycling Program offers customers a free and simple way to recycle plastic packaging of all their products, even private-label ones. In partnership with TerraCycle, collected plastic packaging is cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products. Through this initiative, Kroger empowers consumers to feel like they’re part of the retailer’s sustainability efforts.
Consider how your organization can leverage more recyclable, compostable, and reusable product packaging — and share your associated initiative with customers on your organization’s website, social media platforms, and other channels.
Investing in Sustainability in Retail
Today’s consumers are increasingly conscious about the impact of what they buy on the environment. As a result, implementing sustainability is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” for brand and retailers.
Implementing the strategies outlined above will set you on a path to make a measurable impact on the ongoing climate change crisis — empowering you to save valuable resources while also gaining more loyal customers.
Watch Salsify’s on-demand webinar, “Consumer Research Report 2022 Deep Dive,” to learn more about the latest consumer behaviors and how to level up your omnichannel strategy.