Consumer Experience

What is Sustainability in Retail?

In more recent years sustainability has become a major priority for many brands and retailers. Unfortunately, this is because retail plays a huge role in climate issues. In fact, according to World Retail Congress, retailers are responsible for more than 25 percent of global emissions.

Retail is an industry that inevitably generates waste, but there is a path forward that is more environmentally friendly.

Consumers want to know that the products they buy come from sustainable sources, and that their purchases are contributing to a better future for all of us. As such, it’s becoming increasingly important for retailers to make sustainability part of their core business practices.

But what does it look like for a business to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of their operations—from product sourcing and manufacturing processes to customer engagement strategies? How can the modern business hope to meet customer expectations while also doing what’s right for the environment?

What Is Sustainability in Retail?

The goal of sustainable retail practices is to minimize damage to the environment while providing goods and services that still meet customer standards and expectations.

Sustainability in retail is the act of making conscious decisions that consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a business or organization’s operations. A sustainable retail strategy is an approach to commerce that seeks to ensure long-term success over short-term gains.

Why Is Sustainability Important?

Brand manufacturers and retailers are operating in an ever-changing world, and it’s important that you adapt your own business and try to keep up. The same energy resources that have been around for years might not be the most resourceful or responsible choice anymore.

It’s more important now than ever before that companies reconsider the way they function and try to transform into successful and sustainable business models. While this might require some extra effort on the business side, there are a number of benefits, both ethical and financial, that will come out of that effort.

Such as:

Increased Consumer Satisfaction

One of the most significant benefits of sustainability for organizations is improved customer satisfaction.

According to McKinsey & Company, 60 percent of shoppers said they’d pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, businesses reassure customers about shopping with them, and can even urge shoppers to choose them over competitors who do not have similar policies in place.

Reduced Cost of Operations

Brands and retailers also stand to gain financially by investing in sustainability measures.

For instance, switching from traditional light bulbs to LED lighting systems can significantly reduce electricity bills while still providing adequate illumination for customers and staff alike.

Similarly, utilizing green building practices like installing solar panels on roofs or replacing old HVAC systems with new energy-efficient models can significantly reduce energy costs.

Furthermore, by implementing more efficient logistics processes, such as consolidating shipments or utilizing transportation options with lower emissions, businesses can save on shipping costs and improve their bottom line.

Environmental Impact

Perhaps the most obvious reason to convert to sustainable business practices—the positive environmental effects.

Having a sustainable business can help protect resources for future generations. By reducing energy use and recycling materials whenever possible, sustainable businesses can ensure that natural resources like water, forests, minerals, and oil do not get depleted. This not only helps preserve the environment but also ensures long-term profitability by avoiding expensive resource depletion costs in the future.

Elements of a Sustainable Retail Strategy

There are many different steps businesses can take to create a more sustainable retail strategy. For example:

  • Packaging Materials – Businesses should consider cutting down on packaging materials whenever possible and switching to recyclable options for those that are necessary. In fact, according to Statista, packaging accounts for 46 percent of global plastic waste generation.
  • Energy Resources – Retail organizations should also consider switching to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to power their stores and warehouses. This will help reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources like coal or gas.
  • Waste Generation – Retailers can also use technology to be more sustainable. For example, using automated ordering systems that only order what is needed when it is needed, reducing overstocking and wasted items. Depending on the business, they could also partner with local farmers or other retailers to reduce transportation costs associated with shipping goods from far away locations.
  • Hazardous Materials – Both brands and retailers should make sure they are properly disposing of any hazardous materials used in production or during operations, such as chemicals used for cleaning or paint thinner used for woodworking projects. Proper disposal of these materials will help protect the environment from toxic waste being released into the air or water supply.

All these steps and many more can put your business on the path to practicing sustainable retail.

Potential Challenges of Sustainable Retail

From finding new sources of energy and materials to navigating complex regulations, making sustainability part of your business plan requires careful consideration and hard work.


One of the most difficult aspects of becoming more sustainable is accessing affordable resources.

Finding renewable sources of energy, such as solar or wind power, can be costly and require significant investments. Businesses must also manage their usage of materials carefully in order to reduce waste and conserve resources.

Investing in sustainable practices may involve up-front costs, but these expenses can often be offset by long-term cost savings when implemented properly.


In addition to finding resources, businesses must also grapple with complex regulations related to sustainability.

Many governments have created laws and standards that businesses must adhere to in order to become certified green companies, and understanding these regulations can be a challenge for many corporations. Consulting with an expert on environmental regulations can help businesses navigate these processes.

The goal of sustainable retail practices is to minimize damage to the environment while providing goods and services that still meet customer standards and expectations.

Examples of Sustainable Retailers

Are you worried that trying to convert to sustainable retail sounds too difficult to achieve? Don’t worry! There are many companies who have already dedicated themselves to practicing sustainable retail and are thriving now more than ever.

Such as:


Patagonia is a clothing company that focuses on making high quality apparel with minimal environmental impact.

All of their products are made from sustainable resources, including organic cotton, hemp, and recycled materials. They also strive to minimize waste in their production processes by using more efficient design techniques and avoiding polluting chemicals.

On top of this, they promote responsible material sourcing by donating 1 percent of their sales to environmental causes.


Reformation is an online fashion brand that specializes in eco-friendly clothing. Every piece of clothing they produce is designed with sustainability in mind—from the fabrics used for each piece to the packaging it ships in.

All fabrics used by Reformation come from either post-consumer recycled materials or are sustainably sourced. The company also uses low-impact dyes and non-toxic cleaning methods during production in order to reduce water pollution.

Additionally, they ship all orders carbon neutral through a partnership with the UPS carbon offset program.

Dr. Bronner’s

Around for almost 100 years, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is great example of sustainable business.

They rely on several guiding principles to lead their business, including phrases like “treat the earth like home.” This sentiment can be seen through their use of all-organic and fair-trade ingredients that are ethically sourced and processed in order to create a sustainable supply chain.

On top of this, all of their packaging, including their plastic bottles, are 100 percent post-consumer recycled. This helps reduce waste in landfills and environmental pollution.

The Future of Sustainable Retail

Sustainability in retail is becoming increasingly important for businesses of all sizes and there are many ways that brands and retailers can reduce their environmental impact and show customers they care about sustainability.

By taking these steps, not only will a business decrease its carbon footprint, but it may also gain customer loyalty as consumers become more conscious of the companies they support.

Sustainable practices should be incorporated into every aspect of a company’s operations, if possible, from manufacturing processes to shipping methods.

With careful planning and dedication to reducing waste and emissions, any company can make strides towards becoming an environmentally responsible enterprise.

Visit today to learn more ways for you to improve the customer experience.

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