How retailers can improve their retail bottom line with sustainability

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Courtesy of Vital Efficienci Ltd.

Retailers can improve environmental and financial performance by integrating sustainability in the short-term.


Most retailers have begun taking action in terms of improving their sustainability, including efforts around their store carbon footprint and the built environment: reduce waste, energy, carbon emissions, etc. However, while these early efforts must be praised, most activity to date is centred on large visions that will take five or ten years before an outcome is on their success.There are many things retailers can do now to reducing their carbon footprint, engaging employees and their organization in sustainability, and demonstrating how sustainability can be used to improve financial performance. As such, here are three ways to integrate sustainability for retailers that will not only improve environmental performance, but also financial performance.

1. Integrate Sustainability for Your BuyersThe buyers are already extremely preoccupied with reducing costs, improving quality, and ensuring availability. Therefore, the key is to tie sustainability to the goals that buyers already have and to show how incorporating sustainability can actually help them achieve their goals.For instance, strategies such as packaging reductions or developing more concentrated product formulations can help reduce costs and staying on top of consumer risk factors like heavy metals in toys and jewellery, BPA in plastics or melamine in food can help reduce risk of lost category sales.
2. Communicate About Sustainability with Your CustomersA large number of consumers do want the ability to learn more about the sustainability of the products they buy and the companies they are buying them from. There are many ways to communicate the health, environmental or social responsibility performance of your company and the products you sell.According to the 2009 BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, 40% of shoppers would like to have more sustainability information at the store level. This information does not have to be limited to bricks and mortar retail, but it is far easier to communicate sustainability through online retail e-commerce sites.
3. Improve the Performance of Private Label BrandsImproving the sustainability of private labels and communicating these improvements to customers can change brand perceptions extremely. Many consumers today see private labels as low cost, value brands. Retailers have an excellent opportunity to change public perception of their in-house brands to something more; while at the same time increase sales and margins for their brands.The one critical mistake many retailers - and manufacturers - are making when they try to integrate sustainability is trying to develop something too complex over long time horizons, and as a result employees become frustrated and the sustainability department loses support within their organization. Therefore, it is important to keep things simple, efficient and engaging.Your goal should not be to make everyone in your organization a sustainability expert, but provide them with enough information to implement change and better achieve their own goals.

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