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    5: Sustainable Appetites

    What does the future of sustainability in Retail look like?

    Sustainability & the future of retail are

    intrinsically linked. It’s vital that the sustainable credentials of a retail investment project must be factored in at every stage.

    What does the future of sustainability in Retail look like?

    Sustainability has been a watchword in retail — indeed, in most industries — for some time now. And it would be easy for retailers to fall into the trap of thinking ‘we’ve produced a sustainability strategy, ticked all the boxes and can relax and move onto the next thing.’ But that type of thinking can prove dangerous. The demand from consumers for sustainable practices is ever increasing, and sustainability strategies must be seen as fluid, responsive, reactive and proactive

    That said, making sustainable decisions has never been more difficult for global brands and retailers. Why? Because there’s so much complexity and confusion out there. Government legislation is constantly changing and can be difficult to keep up with. Brands and retailers set their own sustainable initiatives and targets — which don’t necessarily align with each other. Brands want impactful, effective and engaging store experiences. Retailers want clean stores and have restrictive design criteria and guidelines. They need to work together to find common ground.

    And of course, consumers want to make the right decisions. But they are often faced with mixed messaging and conflicting priorities — they need brands and retailers to be transparent in delivering their needs and communicating their sustainable practices.

    Lots to consider.

    But difficult decisions aren’t impossible decisions. We know the pandemic has acted as an accelerant for sustainability demands. Global brands and retailers now have a huge focus on sustainability and need to rise to meet the challenges presented above.

    One innovation we’re seeing on the increase is the pop-up store concept. Using this method, brands and retailers can test the efficacy and popularity of the sustainable store without long-term investment. It’s a great way to test and learn before applying the concepts on a more permanent basis in-store.

    Clearly, considering the best sustainable materials to use is a key factor, as is the ‘circularity of design’ — assessing every aspect of a product from concept to end of life. I’ll be exploring these themes in greater depths in further articles.

    According to the great David Attenborough, ‘Saving our planet is now a communications challenge.’ And this is a great platform for brands and retailers to build from.

    Communications internally, to embed your sustainability practices and policies across the organisation. Communications externally, to give consumers the clear message that you take sustainability seriously and buying from you means they’re making the responsible choice. Communications across supply chains, to ensure these best practices are smooth and consistent from start to finish.

    Organisations need to set clear and feasible goals and commitments. Overcommitting to unrealistic aim can lead organisations to failing to meet their targets, suffering commercially and reputationally. It’s about introducing incremental sustainable practices and promises with a clear vision and end goal in sight.

     

    And the ‘future’ doesn’t stop at some arbitrary point. Come 2030, more targets can be set, more ambitions outlined. As technology and innovation continues to develop, brands and retailers will have even more tools at their fingertips to support their sustainability programmes.

    Sustainability is here to stay. And organisations who recognise this are more likely to be here to stay, too.

    Defined targets, achievable aims and realistic-yet-challenging ambitions. The future of sustainable retail is one in which brands and retailers realise their responsibilities, understand what drives consumers’ decision making and develop sustainability strategies to support these demands.