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Green Initatives – Taking Centre Stage

Sustainability is today very much at the forefront of the global agenda as retailers and retail real estate schemes are increasingly re-directing their strategies and investments towards sustainable and responsible growth. Over the next few pages, we will take a closer look at Green Initiatives across the industry and highlight a selection of retailers and schemes that are leading the way.

While sustainability has always been an important factor, in the last few years its significance to retail has grown immeasurably as retail companies and retail real estate schemes across the world incorporate it into their work more than ever before.

Why is this? Well, an article by Alexis Damen entitled ‘A Retailer’s Guide to Sustainability: How to Make Your Store More Sustainable’ offers a startling statistic… nearly 50 per cent of consumers globally are choosing to buy from brands with a clear commitment to sustainability.

Green Initatives - Taking Centre Stage 1
Looop, H&M
Stockholm, Sweden

So essentially, sustainability is what the market wants, and what it needs to move forward as issues such as climate change, excess waste and unethical labour practices are much more salient than they used to be as consumers become more conscious of what shop they spend their money and in what location.

Alshaya Group is an excellent example of a business that is changing the way in which they approach their business to minimise the negative impacts they have on the world. In 2021 alone, they diverted 19 tonnes of expired stock from landfill and over 200 tonnes of CO2e and they supported nine charities in eight countries. The company by its nature has a huge impact on climate change and they are putting in place the tools and equipment they need to monitor and reduce their carbon emissions as well as water consumption throughout the business.

A pioneer in the sustainability sector, Chalhoub Group operates a comprehensive framework consisting of the five pillars of Leadership, People, Partners, Planet and Impact to foster sustainability. They strive to create a positive impact on People, Partners, and the Planet in the eight countries where we have a direct presence to contribute to national and global agendas to help meet local environmental and societal needs. This is their Chalhoub Impact. As part of their initiatives, they have launched the Chalhoub Greenhouse where one element they focus on is their fashion brand incubator which highlights streetwear, sustainable fashion, contemporary design and accessories across multiple start-ups.

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Looop, H&M
Stockholm, Sweden

Meanwhile, finding virtuous and circular solutions to waste-related problems sits within H&M Group’s goal to use only recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030. H&M’s “Looop” is an in-store recycling initiative which is essentially a garment-to-garment recycling system which is designed to incentivise customers to recycle their old clothes. Although some sustainably sourced virgin materials must be added to strengthen the yarn, the system transforms old clothing into new ones, while not using any water or chemicals. The system recaptures valuable raw materials in recycled clothing and regenerates them back into fibres that are spun into new yarn and knitted into new clothes.

With new sustainability commitments, Allbirds accelerates its ‘Cradle-To-Grave Approach’ that incorporates consumers and the supply chain. The footwear and apparel company that is known for its innovative materials and carbon neutral commitment has announced new, aggressive sustainability commitments for 2025 and 2030, including a 50 per cent reduction in its per-product carbon footprint in 2025 that expands to a near-zero per-unit carbon footprint by 2030. These goals translate to a science-based target to reduce absolute scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 42 per cent by 2030—and Allbirds aims to bring others along to amplify this impact.

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Looop, H&M
Stockholm, Sweden

Dutch cosmetics brand Rituals is another company committed to making a positive impact on the world and they are implementing environmentally-friendly improvements wherever they can. They take a holistic approach to selecting their ingredients, packaging, materials and fabrics, taking multiple aspects into account to make actual sustainable choices. The company is committed to realising their goal of zero-waste packaging by 2025, meaning all their products will be either refillable, recyclable and/or made from recycled material. Their sustainability approach ensures that their customers can continue to enjoy their favourite items at a lower price while being conscious of the planet too.

Ocean positive international sailmaker and sailing wear company North Sails is a leading light in the sector of sustainability. The company gives a voice to the ocean and they work tirelessly in the pursuit of ocean regeneration through their “Adopt a Coral” initiative. The company is on a sustainability journey and they challenge themselves with future-focused vision statements that act as the North Star to them. Just last year, they achieved an important step in this journey by obtaining the B Corporation™ certificate. By being a B Corp™, we commit to respecting the highest standards in terms of social and environmental performance, by bringing a positive impact rather than just generating profits. To learn more about this initiative and the company, please see our lead interview on the company on pages 20-21.

Green Initatives - Taking Centre Stage 4
Manchester, UK

Launched last year, L’OCCITANE en Provence opened its first ever #Mega Sustainability Concept Store at Pacific Place, Hong Kong. Standing for #MakeEarthGreenAgain, the store invites the local community to join forces in reducing plastic waste and support the local sustainable plastic economy. The #MEGA Sustainability Concept Store engages the public in environmental protection in a fun way with the #MEGA Sustainability Reward Program. Shoppers can earn rewards by achieving varied ‘green tasks’ – from dropping their beauty empties to the recycle bins in store and making a green commitment with the Tree of Wishes to completing a three-minute personal carbon footprint evaluation.

The production of denim can be extremely wasteful, and the heritage jeans brand Levi’s is doing its part to change the industry. Some commitments Levi’s is working toward by 2025 include using 100 per cent sustainably sourced cotton, having 100 per cent renewable energy in Levi’s owned and operated facilities, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent across its entire supply chain. The brand is also pioneering innovative, durable fabrics (such as cottonized hemp) that require less waste and resources to produce. Levi’s also has a Worker Well-Being program, through which it “partners with suppliers and local organizations to implement programs focused on financial empowerment, health and family well-being, and equality and acceptance.”

Whilst retail companies across the globe are playing their part in the sustainability drive, retail real estate developments are doing exactly the same and throughout the world new initiatives and programmes are being devised to make the next-generation destination more sustainable than ever before.

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Red Sea Project
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia is grounded in sustainability and sustainable tourism in its fullest sense. This includes protecting the environment and the species that call it home, as well as supporting the local communities living in close proximity to the destination. They are committed to aligning the Project with all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The master plan is informed by the largest marine spatial planning simulation ever undertaken, modelling the environmental impact of developing and operating the destination. The site is underpinned by a smart destination management system that will monitor the environmental impact of our operations, manage visitor movement to avoid over-tourism and provide guests with a seamless, personalised experience. Their aim is to set new standards in regenerative tourism, sustainable development, respecting the natural world, creating opportunities for the local communities and protecting and enhancing the destination for the future.

Meanwhile in the UK, Therme Group has unveiled an updated design for Therme Manchester well-being resort. Therme Group is working in partnership with Peel L&P to deliver the project, at a cost of over £250M and builds upon many exciting elements in the existing planning consent. In addition to a ‘next generation’ waterpark, thermal bathing and a wellbeing spa, these include immersive digital art, an on-site urban farm and botanical gardens. This combination of features highlights Therme’s aim to be far more than just a waterpark and spa, but to create an integrated experience to benefit physical and mental health. The updated plans adopt the very latest technology to make the development even more sustainable and deliver additional exciting features for visitors. They involve a greater integration of biophilic design elements, including double-curved roofs, which reduce the amount of steel required, increasing the sustainability of the development. The new design also includes a green ‘vertical forest’ multi-storey car park to be located at Peel L&P’s Trafford Palazzo. This new addition removes the need for under-venue parking and, therefore, reduces the amount of excavation needed, simplifying the build process and lowering environmental impact. New guest attractions include an all-season urban beach and the world’s first living waterslides to incorporate a 3D-printed superstructure housing thousands of plants.

Innovative ‘welltech’ experiences will be available, such as a snow room, multi-sensory showers and oxygen rooms, and a visitor and education centre will welcome school and community groups for events on sustainability, food and nature. Construction of the development is scheduled to begin in 2023, with a build time of around two years.

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Svart Hotel

Elsewhere in the UK, the Eden Project has teamed up with Canary Wharf Group (CWG) to increase biodiversity within the financial district and provide Eden with a base in London. Eden will create a ‘green spine’ through the centre of Canary Wharf, made up of parks, gardens, waterside access, performance spaces, new bridges, boardwalks and floating pontoons. There will be new spaces for arts and culture, as well as water sports such as paddle boarding, open water swimming and kayaking. “There is not a moment to waste,” said David Harland, Chief Executive of Eden Project International. “CWG and Eden are primed and ready to work together not just to make Canary Wharf a greener place rich in biodiversity, but also to share what we learn in order to bring nature back to other urban developments in the UK and across the globe. CWG and the Eden Project are both based on the transformational redevelopment of a former industrial site into a world-renowned icon of regeneration,” Harland said. “Our exciting new partnership feels natural and vital.”

It is not just in the area of retail that sustainability is a pivotal factor, it is now also being utilised in leisure and residential as well, as a luxury hotel at the base of Norway’s Svartisen glacier will attest as it moves forward with its bold ambitions to generate more energy than it consumes within five years of opening. The base of the Svartisen glacier in the far north of Norway seems an unlikely spot for a luxury hotel and, even less so, a ground-breaking and innovative one that will utilise a remarkable array of technology and smart design to make it the first energy-positive hotel in the world. Yet this is the plan that the architect and hotel developer, Ivaylo Lefterov, is describing: the Svart, a 94-room circular glass structure that will hover over the sparkling waters of the Holandsfjorden, providing a wellness and outdoors adventure hub in the Nordland wilderness. The hotel was originally slated to open this summer but Covid-19 got in the way and it has now been delayed until late 2023. The structure will largely be built from prefabricated modules which are in factories, ready to go, spring thaw and Norwegian lockdown permitting.

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Canary Wharf
London, UK

It is not just Svart in the hotel and resort industry playing their part. The sustainable resort Patina Maldives opened its doors last year and is located in the North Malé Atoll, a 45-minute luxury boat ride from Malé International Airport, the five-star Patina Maldives, Fari Islands is the first resort in the Maldives to have a 100 per cent solar-powered kids’ club, recreation and dive centres. Add to that, zero-waste kitchens, recycling drives, and all kinds of other energy-positive operations. Sustainability is literally in their DNA: the resort’s very walls are built with energy-saving prefab techniques, which significantly reduced waste and carbon emissions. This is the first property of its kind from the lifestyle brand Patina Hotels & Resorts, courtesy of the Capella Hotel Group, and the brainchild of Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan. Alongside its 90 contemporary one-to three-bedroom Beach and Water Pool Villas, plus 20 Fari Studios, there’s a kids’ centre called ‘Footprints’, powered by Swimsol – a company that specialises in marine offshore solar panels.

Finally, the sustainable Moon Retreat opened in Sharjah last year and offers guests a comfortable setting to enjoy Sharjah. An intriguing new design feature has risen out of the sands in Sharjah, UAE – the emirate’s Moon Retreat is now welcoming guests. The eco-luxury retreat developed by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) provides guests with the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities like trekking, star gazing, and nature-inspired experiences in the rugged Mleiha landscape. Each unit is self-sufficient, fitted with all amenities that guests would require on a day-to-day basis.