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BlogUK Retailers Push For Sustainability

UK Retailers Push For Sustainability

One of the most influential areas to affect the British economy, retail businesses, are moving towards implementing more eco-friendly and sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint.

Why is sustainability in retail so important?

As one of the leading industries in the UK, retail has really boomed and can include everything from furniture and skincare to designer mens t shirts and even online marketplaces.

However, it also contributes to a number of issues, such as climate change and pollution. To combat this, businesses are taking a proactive approach towards sustainability now more than ever before.

Sustainability Summit

A few months ago, a Sustainability Summit was hosted in London, and several different brands were invited to attend the inspiring and practical solution-led sessions on how to become more sustainable and implement them into everyday business practices.

Various major fashion and lifestyle brands were just a few of the names that attended, among an impressive 60 other brands that wished to educate themselves on sustainability practices they could implement in retail.

Sustainable packaging

One of the ways that we can see has been implemented quite widely already across businesses is the push to use more eco-friendly packaging. The harmful effects of plastic waste on the environment are quite well known. On the positive side, alternative packaging options have become more widely available and more affordable for even small companies to use.

Paper bags — or reusable ‘bags for life’ — are now a common option that consumers can buy from retailers. Reusable bags are also made out of materials such as cotton or jute instead of plastic. Some companies are even using cornstarch-based biodegradable packaging, meaning it will not leave a long-term negative impact on the environment.

Mars confectionaries have, for instance, decided to stop using plastic wrappers in favour of paper wrappers moving forward. In addition to these sustainable packaging choices, an emerging trend involves the use of biodegradable printed sticky labels, further contributing to reducing environmental impact throughout the entire product lifecycle.

Some companies have implemented sustainable packaging for quite a few years, with beauty brands using compostable packaging since as early as 2009.

Ethical sourcing practices

Another way in which we see retail businesses work towards sustainability is through their sourcing practices and pushing to become more ethical in them.

More and more retailers are looking for suppliers who can source products ethically and sustainably in order to reduce the overall environmental impact. This can range from fair wages for workers to using Fair Trade materials and ingredients. Thanks to those brands ‘ Fair Trade stickers, consumers can also spot these products easily on the final product. Some beauty brands have become the first ever to be fair trade certified. This is something they can actively market to customers to keep the fashion economy running, keeping sustainability at the forefront.

Some businesses are working alongside suppliers to implement sustainable sourcing and have programmes in place to teach them how best to do so. Some grocery stores, for instance, have a Sustainable Agriculture team which is responsible for teaching suppliers how to be more sustainable in their everyday practices, and their commitment to sourcing 100% sustainable cocoa is evidence of this.

Being energy efficient

It might not seem like an obvious choice, but being energy efficient is also a big part of moving towards environmental sustainability. In pursuit of reducing energy use and associated costs, businesses are beginning to note their energy consumption habits and make changes accordingly.

Many businesses are opting for LED lighting, which uses much less energy than traditional lights. To make it even more eco-friendly, sensors are sometimes used in infrequently used rooms so that the lights turn off automatically to reduce waste.

Renewable energy sources are also something that retailers have been looking into, and solar panels or wind turbines have been options that some brands have implemented in order to power their stores and sometimes even their offices.

Building awareness

Apart from just implementing sustainable practices into the running of the business, it is also important to build awareness among consumers as well. Buzzwords such as ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco-friendly’ can be heard and seen more commonly on retail websites, product packaging, and stores.

In-store displays and social media have been great ways to raise awareness, market, and promote any new sustainable practices a brand has implemented. This enables customers to keep up-to-date and encourages them to join in and make sustainable choices for themselves.

What does this mean for the future?

From what we’ve discussed here, retailers in the UK are taking steps in the right direction and have made significant progress in not only committing to becoming more sustainable but actually implementing sustainability practices into their businesses as well.

Swapping packaging so it’s more eco-friendly, delivering parcels in vans that are 100% electric, and even attending events such as the Sustainability Summit, or partnering with environmental organisations, are all evidence of wanting to improve and change for the better.

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