Sustainability has been a buzzword in retail – indeed, in most industries – for some time now. And it would be easy for retailers to become complacent thinking that they have a sustainability strategy in place so they can relax and move on to the next big thing. But that type of thinking can prove dangerous. The demand from consumers for sustainable practices is ever increasing, and therefore sustainability strategies must be fluid, responsive, reactive and proactive.
In other words, it needs to remain a constant priority.
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.
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.
But difficult decisions aren’t impossible decisions. We know the pandemic has acted as an accelerant for sustainability demands, so global brands and retailers now have a huge focus on sustainability and need to find ways to meet the challenges outlined above.
One innovation we’re seeing on the increase is the pop-up store concept. This enables brands and retailers to test the efficacy and popularity of a new format or sustainable store without long-term investment. It’s also a great way to test and learn before applying the concepts on a more permanent basis in-store.
The communications challenge
According to the great David Attenborough, “Saving our planet is now a communications challenge.” And brands and retailers have a brilliant platform to build from and can really start to educate and involve their customers in their sustainability objectives. Give your consumers the clear message that you take sustainability seriously and why, so that they have the confidence that buying from you means they’re making a responsible choice.
Do not neglect your internal communications as well, and fully embed your sustainability practices and policies within your organization and across supply chains.
Organizations need to set clear and feasible goals and commitments. Overcommitting to unrealistic aims can lead to organizations 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.
Defined targets, achievable aims and realistic-yet-challenging ambitions – the future of sustainable retail is one in which brands and retailers realize their responsibilities, understand what drives consumers’ decision making and develop sustainability strategies to support these demands.
Sustainability is here to stay. And organizations who recognize this are more likely to be here to stay, too.
At APS Group we work with a variety of retailers to evaluate their current sustainability processes. From creating POS from recycled mobile phones through to in-store displays made from bamboo, we can create bespoke solutions tailored to your needs. Together, we can make more possible.
Steve Lister, sustainability consultant at APS Group.