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16-year-old Neha Sharma goes for grocery shopping. As she heads towards the cash counter, she sees the cashier packing goods in plastic. Disgusted, she walks out of the shop and decides never to return. Conscious about the harmful effects of plastic and other non-recyclable products on the planet, Neha is a part of the growing movement that is adopting, promoting and practicing sustainability.

In fact, recent studies have proved that a growing number of younger consumers are going for brands that champion values that align with their own. Millennials today have become aware and conscious. Their concerns are not just limited to materials and packaging. They want to buy and promote brands that focus on sustainability across the entire supply chain and overall business operations. A study conducted by First Insight reveals that 62% of Generation Z, who will begin entering the workforce this year, prefers to buy from sustainable brands. The study titled “The State of Consumer Spending : Gen Z Shoppers Demand Sustainable Retail” also shows that majority of Generation Z (54%) are willing to spend 10% more on sustainable products. Even 50% of Millennials swear by sustainability.

Before we go further to comprehend why sustainability is important for retailers, let us first try to understand the meaning of sustainability in retail :

What is sustainability in retail?

When a retail outlet creates financial value while conserving the environment, as well as generating social value across its supply chains and operations, it achieves the goal of sustainability. This goal when supported by the top leadership, goes beyond just energy efficiency and afforestation. According to a Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) report, sustainability in retail creates innovation, opens new markets, reduces business risks, and enhances brand reputation and resiliency.

In fact, going green seems to be the mantra for international retail brands. Walmart has partnered with ECOtality to install electric vehicle charging stations at their stores in three American cities. Similarly, Tesco has been working hard to reduce its carbon emissions since 2007, as part of its climate change strategy to become a zero carbon business by 2050.

What is sustainable supply chain management?

Earlier, supply chains were only restricted to logistics and understanding the movement of goods. However, in the present context and with the rise of digitisation and use of analytics, companies are now empowered to gather data about how sustainable each component in the supply chain is and if it is in sync with the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals. Hence, companies are now able to ensure sustainable ways of sourcing raw materials, ensuring good conditions for workers and reducing the carbon footprint.

Some ways to improve supply chain sustainability include auditing and identifying critical issues (like waste, carbon emission and workers’ safety) within the entire supply chain. Another way is to collaborate with other sustainable suppliers and invest in carbon offsets.

Sustainability in retail : Good for business, great for the planet :

Canada-based fashion retailer La Maison Simons won lots of accolades and new customers after it opened the first zero net energy store in Quebec. The move helped to generate lot of goodwill among its customers. This first-of-its-kind store is designed to generate as much energy on-site as it consumes.

Hence, going green is not only good for maintaining the ecological balance of the planet, but also is in demand by the customers. Today’s consumers are educated, aware and happily willing to invest in sustainable retailers. In fact, a study conducted by Accenture in 2019 reveals that 62% of UK consumers prefer to buy from companies that are reducing their use of plastics and 2/3rd want more transparency in how companies source their materials.

How to make your retail business more sustainable :

Intellect Commerce, known for providing full spectrum, end-to-end solutions for retailers across various verticals, is a champion of adopting green practices. Let’s discuss ways to make your retail business more sustainable :

Easy ways to make your business more sustainable-:

1) Minimise paper usage : Every time you give a paper bill or receipt, you are contributing to deforestation. Hence, it is imperative to reduce the amount of paper in your organisation and think of ways to digitise it. Intellect Commerce encourages the use of digital receipts. In fact, industry data shows that 89% of the consumers would like retailers to offer digital receipts as an option. Moreover, paper receipts are coated with toxic substance. It is especially relevant during the COVID-era where people are avoiding touching as much as possible.

2) Reduce waste out of your manufacturing process : If you are making your own goods, then you must do a serious audit of the waste it is generating. Try to see if your waste has any recyclable good that you can use further in the manufacturing process.

3) Switch to sustainable packaging options : Since packaging plays a very important role in a business, it can make or break your brand’s reputation. Plastic packaging should be avoided as much as possible as pollution generated from it, is destroying our ecosystem. Think of other sustainable options of packaging as it will help you meet your sustainability goals, as well as, give you an edge over your competitors.

4) Look for clean energy options : Going for LED bulbs, harnessing solar energy and reducing physical consumption of energy can help you save the planet. Look for greener and cleaner energy options to power your stores. This will not only be eco-friendly, but also will help you save money.

5) Recycle : Try to look for innovative ways where you can put old and worn-out goods to use. For example, Nike ‘Reuse-A-Shoe’ initiative is praiseworthy as it collects old shoes and then recycles it into material used to create playgrounds, running tracks and courts.

6) Be honest : It is important to be transparent and not mislead your customers by claiming how sustainable your business model is. Sustainability is not just a temporary fad. It’s a commitment and one must not try to win customers by faking it. Be transparent and honest while dealing with your customers.

The rise of sustainable entrepreneurs :

When a businessman is able to meet the needs of all three important aspects- people, planet and profits, he is known as a sustainable entrepreneur. He is someone who believes in a sustainable business model and how it can create value for customers, investors, as well as for humanity. Hence, by addressing critical problems, managing energy and resources efficiently, and thinking of innovative ways to create opportunities around renewable sources of energy, you can become a sustainable entrepreneur.

It’s time for responsible retail :

With so much of competition and emphasis on responsible retail, brands that lead with integrity, innovation and transparency, will thrive. It is important to understand the challenges in the present context and come up with business models that are environmentally-friendly, send a positive message, as well as make our planet a better place to live.

So, are you ready to pledge to sustainability? If yes, then ask for a free demo for iRetail suite to help you achieve your sustainability goals.

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Tel: +91-124-3099700

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