There’s no doubt that the issue of sustainability continues to be a huge driving force in the success of business today.
But sustainability is so much more than just another brand buzzword. Consumers are very quickly wising up to businesses practicing what is known as ‘greenwashing’, the not so clever art of making environmental claims they can’t back up, or that are at odds with what they’re actually doing.
Going green in this competitive landscape means you have to practice what you preach, which is not always easy (or cheap). But as many successful eco-friendly businesses have found, the payoff for your brand, and your bottom line, can be substantial.
According to the KPMG 2022 Australian Retail Outlook, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is only set to become more important to consumers and guide their purchasing decisions.
80% of customers now prefer to buy brands that align with their values
54% of customers say an organisation’s environmental and social record has changed their purchasing decisions
The report especially picks out the younger cohort of consumers coming into their purchasing power as being a key target market for strategic – and profitable – sustainability.
While there are some indications in the UK that a cost of living crisis is causing a reshuffle in consumer priorities towards “value”, consumers still want their cost-effective purchases to be environmentally friendly.
The challenge for retailers is to find clever adjustments that attract customers and communicate ‘greener’ retail options, ensuring that sustainability drives profit.
A simple, practical and very visible place to start?
Packaging and waste reduction.
We’ve identified some eco-friendly changes retailers are adopting to tackle waste and entice customers with ‘greener’ retail options.
Giving single-use the flick
Single use packaging and its alternatives are a big topic right now. And Australian retailers are already exploring other innovative options.
Coles has introduced reusable produce bags and is trialling the removal of the single-use plastic from their fresh section. We’ve also seen Woolworths introduce biodegradable fresh produce bags.
It’s a step towards the eco-friendly ‘bulk’ food retail model. At Gram Sustainable in Melbourne, customers are encouraged to BYO their clean, reusable vessels for grabbing granola, snacks or a range of everyday ingredients. Glass jars and “low-impact” paper bags are also available in-store.
Forward thinking online retailers such as Zero Co are offering zero-waste packaging solutions, using a subscription model for their refill service and reusable vessels – which are themselves made from reclaimed plastic.
Eat the problem
Forgot your reusable cup? How about an edible one instead?
Good Edi edible cups apparently pass the taste test (think waffle cone or the fancier chocolate-dipped version) and help tackle the waste issue of the estimated 1 billion cups ending up in landfill in Australia each year.
If chewing on a cup once you’ve had your hands on it doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, it can also break down naturally in the bin or compost.
In the UK, Ooho edible sachets teamed up with Lucozade to make a splash at marathons, offering easy bite-sized hydration for competitors as an alternative to plastic bottles and cups. They collaborated with Heinz on eco-friendly sachets of ketchup – technically edible, if you want a shot of sauce. And a range of flavoured films is next on their eco hit list.
Waste not, want not
Food waste is a huge environmental issue – and opportunities for retailers to change practice and increase efficiencies can pay off in more ways than one.
There are trends in fresh grocery for reducing food waste in an effort to meet both sustainability goals and customer desires for improving the impact along the supply chain.
A number of leading supermarkets have taken to marketing fruit and vegetables that don’t meet their regular aesthetic standards: odd, ugly or imperfect, but still good.
Harris Farm also have the Repurposeful Picks initiative: turning fresh produce into longer lasting, value-add products before it goes off, to avoid food waste. In terms of sustainable solutions – and clever marketing – reduced waste has a financial benefit for retailers and is a saving that can be passed on to the customer, so they don’t have to choose between environmentally conscious shopping and tightening their belts.
Whippet recently worked with M&S in the UK to launch the Tom Kerridge meal planner, centred on the budget-friendly (and ethical) Remarksable range. With economic recipes and leftover suggestions, it promises a weekly meal plan that’s “All taste, low waste”. Eating ethically, on a budget.
Bin there, doing that
Giving customers better recycling options in-store offers them the chance to reduce their waste and supports a ‘circular economy’ in retail waste, addressing the difficulty in recycling or repurposing particular product types that are purchased from those stores.
The Officeworks “Don’t bin it, bring it” initiative provides options for disposing of common Officeworks products: e-waste, pens, printer cartridges.
Priceline shoppers can return their “makeup empties” to participating stores, where they’ll be disposed of properly thanks to a partnership with TerraCycle.
While sustainability efforts can currently make a retailer stand out or offer a point of difference, it will soon be about keeping pace with your competitors and meeting basic customer expectations.