As consumers opt for a green living lifestyle and seek products that cause minimal environmental harm and focus on positive social impact, retailers must embrace sustainability. With two-thirds of UK and German consumers prioritising recycling and eco-friendly packaging, according to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, it is key to fall in line with these trends. This blog outlines five key points that must be considered when creating future sustainable goals.
Take the path to sustainability retail with these five points:
1. Circular Economy
Reduce, reuse, recycle. A circular economy, creating a closed-loop system to reduce waste and minimise pollution and carbon emissions is part of the sustainable solution. Creating products responsibly and encouraging consumers to get the maximum life and value out of an item is one way to reduce waste. ‘Make Do and Mend’ originally began life as a 1943 wartime pamphlet issued by the British Government to provide tips and instructions on clothing repair. This attitude is crucial for today’s climate, with fast fashion producing garments at an alarming rate it is now or never to mend and make do. The popularity of sewing and creating handmade items can be seen with BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, sparking an online craze of amateur sewers, learning from home techniques and tools to create sustainable, long-lasting projects that are cherished for life.
Clothing rental companies are experiencing a boost in business – as people feel pressure to wear something new for a special event but are conscious of waste, a circular vision is a logical path forward. H&M currently has the world’s largest garment collection programme, with less than 1% of materials used to make clothes getting recycled each year, H&M are offering quick and convenient recycling drop-off points. It is no surprise the UK second hand market has skyrocketed, with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns giving consumers the opportunity to reflect upon habits and overconsumption, the increase of Depop, Vinted and Thredup users came hand in hand.
2. Sustainable Packaging
It is predicted half of UK retail sales will be online within the next 10 years. The Guardian have published a report, suggesting the internet is expected to account for 53% of retail sales by 2029. Although irresistibly convenient, it is at the expense of the environment. Distribution, returns of goods and wasteful packaging is a major contributor to carbon emissions and as consumers seek brands who are eco-conscious the time is now to switch to sustainable packaging. Clothing brand Zara has achieved complete plastic free packaging, shipping orders in recycled cardboard. Lush, a heavy weight in sustainable retailing, fill their boxed orders with packing ‘Eco Pops’, a sustainable alternative to polystyrene, they simply dissolve in water and soil.
3. On-Demand Manufacturing
The pandemic has undeniably changed retail forever, one key lesson to learn is the importance of shorter, simpler supply chains. The world’s global manufacturing output has been disrupted on a previously unimagined scale and longer globalised supply chains and considered vulnerable. Beyond that, complicated supply chains generate more greenhouse gases, a recent study from Edgar Hertwich of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology estimated ‘carbon in transit’ accounts for about 10% of all global emissions. It's best for business to reduce carbon footprint. Reduce risk, waste, and the excess cost of sorting inventory with an on-demand manufacturing model. The rise of e-commerce has allowed for this method, a process in which goods are produced as and when specific quantities are required. Printful, the print-on-demand drop shipping leader offers personalised made-to-order apparel, committed to minimising waste. With streamlined production methods, Printful also considers efficient shipping. Strategically located fulfilment centres around the globe generate fast shipping times, low costs and reduce CO2 emissions in transit.
4. Avoid Greenwashing
As sustainability becomes the heart of consumers, ‘greenwashing’ is ever prevalent. Coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, greenwashing is misleading marketing by a brand, in some cases, exaggerating how sustainable their product or business model is. Consumers have access to more information than ever before, and as many surveys’ suggest, they are also more concerned with the climate crisis and environment. Ensure all products are well-labelled, a study conducted by Asia Pulp & Paper found that 51% of Americans were more likely to recommend a brand if it included clear sustainability information. Clothing brand Reformation, as well as being carbon-neutral provide a ‘RefScale’ for each product, breaking down the environmental impact of every individual item. Become part of the solution, consider obtaining third-party certifications for products and services, this will provide straightforward and trust worthy standards.
Alongside shifting consumer demands, social media has opened new discourse for discussion of brands, advocacy groups such as Fashion Revolution are campaigning for accountability, for brands to disclose sustainable status. There is a growing expectation for brands to share more of themselves, to be open and honest with customers. With this radical retail change, businesses should adopt placing transparency at the core of their values. From labelling, to emission goals and transparency of the supply chain, consumers are interested. Putting forward a clear message is not only good business practice but will ensure a trusting and ongoing relationship with the consumer is set.
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