6 ways retailers can become eco-friendly

6 ways retailers can become eco-friendly
November 25, 2019 Georgina Quach
In Thoughts, Marketing
eco friendly retail

“Fast fashion” and “vegan mayo” are now buzzwords, and shoppers have never been more conscious of their environmental impact.

What does this mean for shops? 

With “ethical spending” now totalling £81.3 billion of UK’s retail market, consumers are doing all they can to stamp out their carbon footprint – and they expect shops to do the same. As more and more shoppers switch to the green lane, the pressure is on to ensure retailers are doing their bit, right across the supply chain. 

Here are 6 powerful steps that retailers can take to go green.

1. Plan your supply chain

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This can help reduce global warming and prevent the destruction of natural habitats.

This refers to two things.

The first is the products which end up on your shelves. If you’re doing everything else on this list, but your main products are palm oil and shark tail, there’s a problem. This is one of the big issues with Western Countries and the environment – too often we will get around environmental regulations by exporting the destructive part of our consumption to another country.

If you have a procurement “process”, try building an ethical step into it – does whatever you’re selling meet your ethical standards? You could ask whether it destroys animal habitats, creates a lot of waste, and whether the producers are compensated fairly for the work required to make the product.

The second, and less obvious, is how many CO2 miles go into the product you’re buying. The final ethical step we’d recommend building in is the amount of air miles your products rack up.

2. Go paperless

paperless bags

This reduces global warming and sometimes the destruction of natural habitats. 

Unfortunately, paper bags – which decompose faster than plastic, so won’t sit on a landfill or in the ocean forever – take four times as much energy to produce as a plastic bag, according to research by theNorthern Ireland Assembly. Therefore we can’t recommend the paper bag alternative to plastic bags. It cuts down on plastic; but warms up the world through excessive energy consumption. If you’re keen to help rid the world of plastic bags, you can offer to collect them, including from your rival shops – like the retailer Ocado, who even rebate the customer with the 5 pence tax for every bag they hand in. 

Always ask at the till if a bag is really necessary; often your customer will have a reusable one to hand. To go really green, consider selling reusable bags (with your name on it!) at a cost. 

“Would you like your receipt emailed?” is eco-friendly AND customer-friendly – you’ll save your customers’ wallets from being clogged with needless bits of paper. Moreover, you can capture customer email addresses for future marketing efforts. Even basic EPOS software will let you send digital receipts.

Then, take some of those manual processes which require pen and paper, online. Take your accounting online; do online payroll; and send out staff schedules digitally. Integrating with online accounting software like Xero frees you from lots of paper diaries and lets you maintain electronic copies of all the documents you need. Use digital marketing to reduce paper waste – in today’s world, focusing your efforts consistently on social media and influencers may be the best way to go.

3. Rethink your packaging


This helps reduce landfill waste and waste in ecosystems. Can also help reduce global warming and prevent the destruction of natural habitats.

If you’ve got an e-commerce side to your business and you post products, it’s harder to get around packaging standards and even harder protecting your goods with minimal packaging. In this case, choose recyclable products that serve the same purpose. More than half of consumers would pay more for a product that came in environmentally-friendly packaging, the KPMG retail report tells us. 

Recyclable cardboard is widely available. Be careful here though: the cardboard box may have a recycling logo on it, but what about the plastic wrapping? The tape? And even the glue? If you offer postal returns, look for mailing bags that lets your customer return their goods in the packaging they arrived in. 

Then, allow your customers to be consume ethically. Be transparent about sources. In developed markets, customers are beginning to expect ethical accreditation — such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or Living Wage — as standard. Kraft Foods forecasts that customers will soon look across the shelves and see these marks on lots of products. Those that do not will stand out. If you sell ethical goods, make sure everything is clearly labelled. 

Stores like And Other Stories encourage recycling by offering discounts when customers bring back the containers that their cosmetics came in, as well as offer textile recycling programmes.

4. Be energy efficient

Start doing this today. When you leave your store site, shut down all systems and turn off all the lights. 

On a larger scale, think about installing solar lighting options in areas where visibility is needed all the time, or automatic lighting sensors. You could opt for more energy-efficient LED bulbs so that your store set-up consumes less power overall. They tend to be pricier but are worth the investment – some last up to 20 times longer than traditional bulbs. 

Rather than relying on countertop POS machines, which often consume a lot of energy, switch to modern, low-power EPOS software which you can set up on a mobile device like your iPad. Cloud-based software systems don’t need you to be logged in all the time – you can shut down your systems and your business data still gets updated. 

5. Eliminate unnecessary waste and recycle

recycle logo

Perform an audit of your business and work out the kinds of unnecessary waste, or excess plastic, you produce or consume. At Christmas time, for example, it might be custom for your store to wrap up items in tissue paper. You could make this a paid-for option and use sustainably-harvested gift wrap, informing your customers that it is part of your efforts to battle climate change! 

Rather than immediately sending them to the landfill, consider donating slightly damaged or outdated goods to charity. You could use sustainable store decorations like plants and cacti to demonstrate your commitment to the green cause (and boost your store’s instagrammability!). Don’t forget to set in place and clearly label your recycle bins. 

Think about using second-hand fixtures; trawling antique shops may bring up treasures that will enhance the appeal and uniqueness of your shop.

6. Communicate your green values to your staff

The sustainability mission is everybody’s business. So before you start implementing these practices, it will be important to share this with the rest of your staff. Ensure that everyone in the team is compliant. Other ways of communication include: weekly reminders via email to encourage employees to reduce waste, put up posters by recycling receptacles with reminders on the proper protocol, and hold regular team meetings where you report on green progress.

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