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Green Initiatives

Navigating Retail’s Sustainable Journey

The sense of urgency surrounding sustainability has never been more intense than it is now, with the retail industry facing pressure from all sides. In this article, Dan Williams, Founder and Managing Director of 100% Group takes us on a journey of sustainability across the retail industry.

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In one corner, you have the modern-day consumer, an eco-conscious individual who actively prioritises supporting ethical and sustainable brands. In the other corner, global regulators are now requiring transparency across all supply chain practices, while imposing environmental mandates, such as the UK government’s target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

As businesses face increasing pressure to achieve their sustainability targets in the coming years, significant changes must be made by the retail industry as a whole to make tangible change. For brands and retailers, embracing a planet-first mindset and making responsible decisions will not only help protect the future generations of this planet, but also support the success of their businesses.

The evolving mindsets of consumers
It is evident that over the past decade, there has been a shift in the consumer mindset driven by Gen Z; a socially conscious and responsible generation motivated by its desire to make a positive impact on the world. According to research, 75 per cent of the Gen-Z demographic agree that sustainability is more important than brand name and are willing to pay more for responsible products and services. Coined as ‘conscious consumerism’, consumers are now taking a more dedicated approach when choosing which brands to support and products to buy. They prefer products that are ethically sourced and produce less waste, from brands with strong and visible sustainability commitments. Not only that, but it appears that brand loyalty won’t exempt businesses from valid criticism. Nowadays, consumers are no longer remaining silent when it comes to calling out their favourite brands for greenwashing and unethical practices.

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Trailblazing brands
In a competitive market where greenwashing claims are widespread, brands that are truly making a difference are celebrated for driving sustainable practices and placing a greater focus on the matter within the retail space. Patagonia is a prime example of this. Named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential Companies, the outdoor-wear brand is renowned for its strong sustainability initiatives and commitments, including the use of 100 per cent organic virgin cotton as part of its environmental responsibility programmes and a self-imposed earth tax. In 2022, its founder, Yvon Chouinard, gave away his company to a charitable trust, stating that any profit not reinvested in running the business would go toward fighting climate change.

Cosmetics brand Lush, is another great example of a retail brand that goes the extra mile in making its products environmentally friendly and sustainable. According to its website, about half of Lush’s products can be taken home with no packaging saving nearly six million plastic bottles globally from selling shampoo bars alone. This demonstrates the impact even small actions can have. We’re also seeing more and more brands introduce ‘Bring It Back’ schemes, which reward consumers for returning old, empty products. For example, at Lush, for every five of its black tubs returned, shoppers can get a free fresh face mask in return! This encourages consumers to uphold sustainability practices and creates a more circular economy.

A sustainable approach
Now more than ever, retail businesses face unprecedented levels of accountability from their consumers, especially when it comes to sustainable practices. According to a NielsenIQ study, 76 per cent of consumers are calling for companies to take initiative to reduce their environmental footprint. With an increasing number of brands adopting a more sustainable approach and moving forward with their strategies, brands that fail to keep up with their competitors will get left behind. But navigating the broad topic of sustainability can seem like a daunting challenge, leaving businesses unsure of where to start. So, thinking about the long-term view of a project before it even starts is crucial, from the initial idea and concept all the way to the consumer buying the product and through to the end of life. This ensures that sustainable practices can be embedded into every step of the process. For instance, take retail installations and displays. Every aspect, from the materials used and how this affects its design, to its transportation needs and its end-of-life, must be taken into consideration to minimise resource consumption and reduce waste.

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Potential challenges along the way
Any company looking to stay relevant in the future should consider its ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy. However, the journey to a more sustainable future isn’t without its challenges and businesses can face various obstacles. When it comes to budgets, businesses are often constrained by time, making it difficult to plan in the long-term. This poses a conundrum when considering that our actions and decisions now will have a long-lasting impact on our planet in the years to come. Not only that, but it seems the upfront costs associated with implementing sustainable practices can be discouraging to retail businesses. However, research actually shows that companies make more money when they invest in sustainability, as consumers want to buy products from companies that use socially responsible business practices. By aligning their practices with sustainability, retail businesses not only contribute positively to the planet but also enhance their brand reputation and increase their bottom line.

The road ahead
It’s promising to see that retailers and brands are placing a greater focus on sustainability. As sustainability becomes an increasingly important requirement for consumers, it’s crucial to implement comprehensive initiatives, both for survival in the ever-challenging retail landscape and more importantly, for our environment.

By choosing to work with sustainable partners and agencies, brands play an active role in shaping a future that prioritises ethics, equality and environmental consciousness. At 100% Group, we serve as a toolbox for brands envisioning their store of the future. Our mission is to help our clients create retail activations that are not only outstanding but sustainable and environmentally responsible too.

Meeting the Standard

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Companies around the world from the retail real estate sector today put a lot more thought into their carbon footprint and sustainability initiatives than they ever have done in years gone by. In this article, RLI takes a look at a number of examples of businesses that are focusing on sustainability within their company processes to make them a more carbon-neutral entity for today and tomorrow.

At its core, sustainable retail is all about selling products and services in a way that minimizes negative environmental and social impacts while maximizing positive ones. This can include anything from sourcing sustainable materials to supporting fair trade practices. In general, sustainable retail businesses strive to operate in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible. This is the view point of Diversitech Global in its article ‘A Guide to Sustainable Retail Industry 2024: Retail Trends & Consumer Behaviour’.

The article goes onto say that the importance of sustainability retailing is to ensure that a company’s products and services are environmentally friendly and do not have a negative impact on the planet. Not only is sustainable retail important for the planet, but it’s also good for business. Customers are increasingly looking for brands that reflect their own values, and those who invest in sustainable practices are more likely to win their loyalty. What’s more, sustainable businesses often have lower operating costs thanks to improved energy efficiency and waste reduction.

Last year the American household fashion brand Coach demonstrated its intent to take the circular momentum seriously through the launch of Coachtopia. Developed as a collaborative lab for innovation focused on circular craft, the launch marks a significant milestone for the company. Launched throughout 2023 in the US, Canada, the UK and Asia, Coachtopia is a new sub-brand focused on circular craft and collaborative creativity, pushing forward the brand’s progress towards a fully circular business model. Harnessing more than 80 years of Coach leather expertise, Coachtopia reimagines the product lifecycle from end to beginning— reducing the creation of new materials by crafting with waste and designing products that can be reimagined, remade and recycled to live multiple lives. In so doing, it is working to create beautiful things that have a significantly reduced impact on the planet compared to conventional luxury products.

Meanwhile in Paris, France, leading department stores have all started to welcome circularity through dedicated store spaces and offerings. For instance, the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann launched in 2021 a (RE)STORE space of 500 square meters dedicated to second-hand players and sustainable brands. In addition to hosting Monogram, a French luxury second-hand e-tailer, the space features a number of popular online resale shops as well as sustainable brands designing clothing or products made exclusively from offcuts and recycled materials.

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In the middle of last year Spanish design studio Nagami completed a shop interior for sustainable clothing brand Ecoalf near Madrid that’s 3D printed from recycled plastic. With the aim of bringing together design and technology to raise awareness about the climate crisis – additive manufacturing specialist Nagami crafted the plastic panels using a robotic arm equipped with a custom-built extruder that can print complex 3D forms. To enhance the feeling of walking on a glacier, natural stone tiles embody veins reminiscent of cracking ice on the floor. Additionally, all of the components utilised for the interior can be disassembled and reused or recycled for future projects.

BrewDog, the renowned craft beer brewery, has taken substantial strides to integrate sustainability into its operations. Led by Co-Founder James Watt, the company has not only obtained B-Corp certification but has also made a remarkable commitment to become carbon negative. Through their B-Corp certification, BrewDog has demonstrated its commitment to meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. This designation showcases their dedication to responsible business practices and upholding the highest ethical standards. Beyond the B-Corp certification, BrewDog has taken an even bolder step by making a carbon-negative pledge. Recognising the severity of the climate crisis, the company aims not only to reduce its own carbon emissions but also to actively remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits. By adopting this approach, BrewDog is actively contributing to the reversal of climate change, positioning itself as a leader in the fight against global warming.

In the Middle East, the Apparel Group brand TOMS has launched the Sustainability Campaign: Planting Trees for a Greener Future. The brand, known for its commitment to social impact and environmental sustainability, revealed that throughout the month of April they would plant 1,000 trees, marking a significant step towards a greener future. In addition to the impact your purchases have year-round – helping provide mental health resources to the millions of people who need them – Apparel Group and TOMS are thrilled to work with The Storey Group to plant 1,000 trees in the UAE. The Storey Group supports companies to make the planet a better place by planting trees.

Major retail real estate developers also play their part in sustainability, just take VIA Outlets as an example, they are continental Europe’s fastest-expanding owner-operator of premium fashion outlets by gross lettable area (GLA) and have, over the past decade, achieved the highest five-star rating in GRESB’s 2023 Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark Report for the fourth consecutive year, placing the company seventh in the “Europe, Shopping Center” category and 11th in the “Retail Europe” classification. Meanwhile, this summer will see a transformation at Freeport Lisboa Fashion Outlet begin. The central canal street and main entrance plaza will be remodelled and additional relaxation areas will be added to the centre. VIA Outlets’ commitment to their sustainability goals and standards will be present every step of the way, from the materials they will use to the energy efficiency levels they aim to reach.

It is not just retail companies making strides in the arena of sustainability… Set to open its doors this year, Hotel Svart in Norway, cradled at the base of the stunning Svartisen glacier in Norway, serves not merely as a state-of-the-art architectural masterpiece, but more importantly, as a vibrant global innovation accelerator for sustainable solutions, operated by the parent company, Net Zero Labs AS. Six Senses Svart will house 94 rooms, four restaurants, a 1,000sq m spa, a sustainable farm, a design laboratory and an education centre which will educate guests on topics such as waste management, glacier protection and sustainable farming. There will also be two electric boats to be used by the hotel and its visitors. Hotel Svart will stand as a symbol of the future, leading the charge towards a sustainable revolution in the travel and real estate industries. Harnessing real-time innovation, collaboration, and transparency, Hotel Svart, powered by Net Zero Labs AS, is facilitating the global transition towards circularity and net-zero emissions.