The evolution of sustainability in retail

Alongside beauty, many other retailers are now coming under the microscope when it comes to sustainability and environmental issues. There’s no doubt that sustainability is a hot topic but, for various reasons, many retailers are lagging behind.

Firstly, why should retailers pay attention to sustainability? Other than ethical reasons, like saving the planet, going green offers many benefits. For one, customers are paying close attention: 93% of global consumers expect more of the brands they use to support social and environmental issues, and up to 20% will spend more on environmentally sound products.

It’s clear that modern shoppers are happy to invest in sustainable brands, so it’s logical that retailers, in turn, should look to invest in sustainability, transparency helps to connect with consumers in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

In the past, many retailers struggled to get a complete picture of the impact of their own operations, and as a result, a firm grip over their sustainability. Fortunately, we now have technology at our disposal that gives us a full view of our business and the ability to identify and make the changes when necessary, leaving no room for excuses. For example, brands now have the ability to adopt intelligent warehouse systems from retail platforms that allow them to identity the most efficient picking routes, not only saving the business money, but also the fuel of their transport vehicles too. Other companies are even adopting technology, such as barcode scanners, that allows them to introduce ‘paperless warehouses’ which again saves on resources and importantly, benefits the environment.

These simple changes can have a drastic impact on your business and how sustainable it is, ensuring resources are used more effectively, preventing waste, and reducing energy costs.
Many companies also face issues with the gathering and reporting of sustainability data. We too faced challenges in our early days, using a mix of spreadsheets and systems that were very restrictive and that made it very difficult to keep track of sales, inventory and have visibility of all of our business’s data, which made it more challenging to assess our impact on the environment.

We rectified this by employing a back office solution that pulls together all of our vital company data, such as sales, financials and customer information, into one central hub. This gave us a single view over our business and meant we could make the informed decisions needed to streamline our operations and both measure and reduce our own carbon footprint, in-line with our sustainable strategic goals.

Today, retailers have a huge influence on society, and can take a positive role in helping to educate people regarding the environment. More companies need to capitalise on the opportunity to prioritise sustainability by weaving it closely into their overall business strategy. Doing so, means considering new investment in the systems and tools that can make these eco-plans and sustainable business practices a reality.

Laura Rudoe is the founder  of Evolve Organic Beauty

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