At the World Retail Congress held this month in Rome, the first of “Retail’s Strategic Pillars” was Our Planet. “Retailers and the retail industry have to take a proactive leading role in affecting genuine, positive change.  There are big challenges for retailers to tackle, and to tackle urgently,” according to the organizers of this year’s event.

While there were probably not any independent retailers among the 14,000 in attendance at the conference in Italy, the issues that our bigger competitors face regarding the environment are not unlike those faced by smaller store owners. And it could be argued that we are in a better position to make meaningful changes at our reduced scale.

According to the global innovation intelligence platform Springwise, consumers are more aware than ever of the environmental issues facing the planet.  They want to know whether products come from, and whether the manufacturing process used to create them is sustainable.  Transparency is the key word here.

Transportation of goods also has a huge impact on the environment, and the trend towards online shopping – undoubtedly a hot topic at the World Retail Congress – comes at a high cost.  The environmental expense of shipping goods to a store makes it advantageous to buy from local or regional vendors, goods shipped directly to the consumer. But products sent directly to the consumer, often in separate, wasteful packaging, incurs additional “last-mile” costs in which a truck may drive to a home address just to deliver a small, single item.

You are already saving on this environmental cost by allowing shoppers to come to you, perhaps on foot or by bike, to purchase multiple items.  But there is much that you can do to make sure that your brick and mortar store follows sustainable practices.  One of our employees has taken a local course in recycling to make sure we do our best to minimize what goes in our local landfill.  We also use recycled printer paper and products in the store, and have chosen our lighting and heating/cooling for energy efficiency. 

Consumers have made a shift towards not requesting gift boxes and bags unless they really need them, which is one good example of how helping the environment also saves us money.  You might check with your local utility to see if they can find ways to you to cut your energy usage – and costs.

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder