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Sustainability in Retail: What is Green Retailing?

Green retailing holds a lot of significance right now. But what is it? Read this blog to find out more about it and what it does for sustainability in retail.

Sustainability holds huge significance in the retail industry right now. So much so that consumers are considering and prioritizing sustainability when they purchase something. This is where green retailing comes into play. Green retailing has gained traction in recent decades, especially in the last few years, when modern consumers became more conscious of the environment and more aware of their purchasing power. So what is green retailing? How can brands contribute to sustainability in retail?

What is green retailing for example?

Green retailing (oftentimes also known as sustainable retailing or eco retailing) refers to the movement or approach of integrating environmentally friendly and sustainable practices into retail operations to reduce waste in every aspect of a business. This approach is attributed to the extensive goal of reducing the environmental impact of retail activities, promoting sustainable consumption, and encouraging eco-friendly behaviors among consumers.


Green retailing encompasses a wide range of strategies and practices. Some examples include implementing energy-saving practices, creating recycling programs, offering actual sustainable products, using biodegradable packaging materials, and more.


Green retailing can be seen in various companies and corporations in the modern world. According to the Deloitte 2023 CxO Sustainability Report, 75% of consumer industry leaders increased investments in sustainability over the previous year. It’s also been reported that 50% of companies are developing new climate-friendly products or services to offer. These are not small numbers and are a constant sign that sustainability in retail is crucial.


Nowadays, being environmentally friendly is not merely an additional facet to a business. It’s become a necessity, not just to attract a whole new wave of consumers and keep up with modernization, but also to give back to the community and take responsibility for the environment.


Here are some examples of widely-known corporations that are prioritizing sustainability in retail:


  • IKEA: This Swedish furniture retailer offers a range of products made from sustainable materials, including FSC-certified wood and recycled materials. Many IKEA stores use solar panels and other renewable energy sources to power their operations. In fact, one of their ambitious goals is to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption in their stores and distribution centers by 80%.
  • Whole Foods Market: This supermarket chain serves as an example when it comes to creating a sustainable global food system. In their 2022 Impact Report, Whole Foods Market highlighted their strategic approach to combating food waste, reducing its carbon footprint, consciously sourcing products, and even supporting their members’ growth and well-being. Some of their green retailing practices include having recycling programs, donating meals, adding new organic products to their roster, and more.
  • The Body Shop: This beauty brand is known to use ethically sourced, natural ingredients in its products and supports fair trade practices. The Body Shop also has a strong commitment to reducing plastic waste by using recycled materials in their packaging and offering refill stations for some products. In a 2023 survey by Which?, The Body Shop customers’ top reasons for the brand being sustainable include being cruelty-free, using natural/non-toxic ingredients, and offering refillable products.
  • Patagonia: As an outdoor recreation clothing retailer, is striving to reduce its environmental impact. They use recycled materials in their products and encourage customers to repair and reuse items instead of buying new ones. They also encourage their customers to buy less and help tackle the issues brought on by consumerism. In 2023, ethical fashion brand rating platform, Good On You, gave Patagonia a “Good” rating based on their environmental impact and initiatives.


Green retailing does not only help in reducing the environmental footprint of retailers. It also attracts environmentally conscious consumers, thereby aligning business practices with growing consumer and even government demand for sustainability. These examples and brands show that earning a profit as a retailer does not have to harm the environment.

What is an eco-friendly consumer?

An eco-friendly consumer, also known as a green consumer, is someone who prioritizes environmental sustainability in most of their purchasing decisions. These are the consumers who buy mostly organic, energy-saving, or ecological products—products that mostly consume fewer natural resources. These consumers are mindful of the environmental impact of the products they buy and the practices they engage in. As a result, they often seek to minimize their ecological footprint when they engage in retail purchases.


Some of the key characteristics and behaviors associated with an eco-friendly consumer include:


  • Awareness - They are knowledgeable about environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, and resource depletion. They stay informed about the environmental impact of different products, services, and retail brands.
  • Conscientious Purchasing - They prefer products that are sustainably produced, made from recycled or organic materials, and have minimal packaging. They also know how to look for eco-labels and certifications among products and brands such as Fair Trade, USDA Organic, Energy Star, and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
  • Ethical Food Choices - Eco-friendly consumers also prioritize ethical food choices. This includes buying organic, locally grown produce, choosing plant-based or sustainably sourced meat and seafood, reducing food waste by planning meals, and composting.
  • Ethical Personal Care - When it comes to personal care products, these consumers go for those with natural ingredients and minimal packaging; avoiding products with harmful chemicals or microbeads.
  • Waste Reduction - Eco-friendly consumers also practice reducing, reusing, and recycling to minimize their own waste. They avoid single-use plastics and opt for reusable alternatives. This includes cloth bags, metal straws, and refillable water bottles.
  • Energy Efficiency - These consumers choose energy-efficient appliances and vehicles, often considering electric or hybrid cars. They are also conscious of their energy use at home and work, or when choosing retail stores and establishments. They prefer energy-saving practices and technologies.
  • Support for Sustainable Brands - They favor companies and brands that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability through their business practices. Often, they are also willing to pay a premium for products that are eco-friendly and ethically produced.
  • Local and Ethical Consumption - They support local businesses and farmers' markets to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. They consider the ethical implications of their purchases, including fair labor practices and animal welfare.
  • Advocacy and Education - Green consumers also often advocate for environmental causes and support policies aimed at protecting the environment. They actively educate others about the importance of sustainable living and encourage eco-friendly behaviors in their community.

Why do consumers want eco-friendly products?

According to GlobeScan, sustainable behaviors have seen a significant increase since 2021, including buying organic or natural products (40%), avoiding products that they know are bad for the environment (51%), and avoiding single-use plastic where possible (47%). Meanwhile, in another survey by VisualGPS and YouGov, they saw a shift in the pandemic, where they found that 81% of people expect companies to be environmentally aware when it comes to advertising and communications. 69% of respondents, on the other hand, said they were doing everything possible to minimize their carbon footprint.


Modern consumers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly products. In fact, they are more environmentally aware than they were a few decades ago. They want eco-friendly products and services now for a variety of reasons that reflect both personal values and broader societal concerns. And businesses need to step up and meet the needs of their customers and potential audience.


Here are several key reasons and motivations why modern consumers want eco-friendly products:


  1. Environmental Concerns
  2. Health and Safety
  3. Ethical and Social Responsibility
  4. Quality and Durability
  5. Economic Benefits
  6. Social Influence and Peer Pressure
  7. Brand Loyalty and Trust
  8. Personal Fulfillment
  9. Regulatory and Market Trends


#1 Environmental Concerns

Awareness of climate change and its impacts drives consumers to choose products that contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions. There’s also the desire to reduce the depletion of natural resources by opting for products made from recycled or sustainable materials. Consumers choosing eco-friendly products also help minimize pollution, including plastic waste and chemical pollutants.


#2 Health and Safety

Eco-friendly products often contain fewer harmful chemicals, reducing the risk of health issues such as allergies, respiratory problems, and skin irritations. People with certain health issues and conditions will be more aware of the products they’re using and consuming. Organic products and those with natural ingredients are perceived as safer for personal use and consumption, especially when it comes to food and personal care items.


#3 Ethical and Social Responsibility

Green consumers are often motivated by a desire to support products that are made under fair labor conditions. They want to ensure that the actual workers are also paid fairly and treated ethically. Cruelty-free products, meaning they are not tested on animals, also appeal to consumers who are concerned about animal rights and welfare.


#4 Quality and Durability

Eco-friendly products are often perceived as being of higher quality and more durable. This leads to longer-lasting use and better value for money, making them desirable for eco-friendly consumers. Sustainable products frequently incorporate innovative design and technology as well, which offers superior functionality and aesthetics.

#5 Economic Benefits

Energy-efficient products, such as LED bulbs and appliances, can lead to significant cost savings over time through reduced energy bills. Although eco-friendly products may have a higher upfront cost, their durability, and efficiency can result in lower overall expenses for consumers as well.

#6 Social Influence and Peer Pressure

Growing societal emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility influences consumer behavior as a whole. Social networks and peer groups can motivate other individuals to choose eco-friendly products and align with collective values and trends.

#7 Brand Loyalty and Trust

Consumers tend to trust and remain loyal to brands that demonstrate a firm commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Brands that are transparent about their environmental impact and sustainability in retail gain unique consumer trust and loyalty.

#8 Personal Fulfillment

Making eco-friendly choices provides a sense of personal fulfillment to consumers. It also provides moral satisfaction by contributing to a larger cause. Most consumers feel empowered knowing their choices can have a positive impact on the environment and society.

#9 Regulatory and Market Trends

Increasing regulations around environmental standards push consumers to choose products that comply with these norms and regulations. As more companies adopt sustainable practices, and the availability and variety of eco-friendly products continue to increase, consumers will have better opportunities to make green choices.



How can retail stores be sustainable?

Retail stores can adopt various strategies to become more environmentally friendly and strengthen sustainability in retail as a whole. With the right solutions and practices, retailers can not only reduce their environmental impact but also provide green choices for every consumer.


Here are several key strategies that can help retail stores be more sustainable in every aspect of their business operations:


Implement Energy Efficient Practices

  • LED Lighting: Replace traditional lighting with energy-efficient LED lights to reduce energy consumption and lower electricity bills. LEDs also have a longer lifespan, which helps reduce waste. This can be done in brick-and-mortar stores, warehouses, and distribution centers, food retail establishments, and more.
  • Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems: It’s also recommended to upgrade to energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This can significantly reduce energy usage for retailers. Regular maintenance and the use of programmable thermostats further enhance efficiency.
  • Renewable Energy: Installing solar panels or purchasing green energy from suppliers helps retail stores reduce their carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels.


Apply Green Building Practices

  • LEED Certification: Constructing or retrofitting stores to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards is also a good way to reinforce sustainability in retail. This ensures that buildings and establishments are environmentally friendly, resource-efficient, and healthy for occupants.
  • Sustainable Materials: Use recycled, reclaimed, or sustainably sourced materials for the construction and renovation of stores and buildings. This reduces the environmental impact and promotes resource conservation.
  • Natural Lighting: Maximize natural light through skylights and large windows to reduce the need for artificial lighting and improve the shopping experience for customers.


Develop More Sustainable Product Offerings

  • Eco-Friendly Products: Develop products made from sustainable materials. This includes organic cotton clothing, bamboo products, or items made from recycled materials. This attracts eco-conscious consumers and helps the environment as well.
  • Local and Ethical Sourcing: Sourcing products locally reduces transportation emissions and supports the local economy. This helps ensure suppliers follow ethical and sustainable practices and further enhances a retailer’s sustainability profile.


Apply Sustainable Solutions like Digital Labels in Daily Operations

  • Digital Labels: Digital labels like SOLUM’s Newton ESL can be a great alternative to traditional paper labels. This digital label solution contributes to sustainability in retail as it eliminates the need to print and reprint paper labels. It also has a 10-year lifespan, helping retailers reduce waste. With its other advanced features, digital labels can help optimize retail operations and help retailers reduce paper waste, unnecessary manual labor, and more.
  • Paperless Customer Transactions: Apart from digital labels, retailers can also reduce paper use by offering digital receipts, using electronic communication methods, offering mobile payments or self-checkouts, and more to minimize waste.
  • Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products: Use environmentally friendly cleaning products in physical stores as well. This will help reduce harmful chemical exposure and pollution.
  • Reusable Bags: If retailers can’t provide their own reusable bags, they can encourage customers to use their reusable bags. Offer incentives or charges for single-use bags to reduce plastic waste in the store and among customers.


Improve Waste Reduction Processes

  • Recycling Programs: Implement comprehensive recycling programs for paper, plastic, glass, and metal to help reduce waste sent to landfills. Make sure to provide recycling bins for customers to also encourage eco-friendly behaviors from customers.
  • Composting: Retail stores, especially those selling food, can compost organic waste. This will help reduce landfill contributions and create useful compost for landscaping around the establishment.
  • Packaging Reduction: Another good practice for sustainability in retail is minimizing packaging materials in retail operations. Use recyclable or biodegradable packaging to reduce waste and the environmental impact of products.


Implement new Water Conservation Practices

  • Low-Flow Fixtures: Install low-flow faucets, toilets, and urinals to reduce water usage among retail stores and establishments. This is especially beneficial in restaurants, warehouses, factories, and more.
  • Water Recycling: Implementing systems to recycle gray water for non-potable uses is also a good green retailing practice. This includes systems such as irrigation or toilet flushing, which reduce overall water consumption for a business.


Encourage Eco-friendly Transportation Modes

  • Public Transit Incentives: Encourage employees and customers to use public transportation through incentives like subsidized transit passes or discounts. This can help reduce a retailer’s carbon footprint overall.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: Installing EV charging stations in the parking lot supports the adoption of electric vehicles among the public. This helps attract eco-conscious customers as well as modern consumers who have switched to electric cars.


Choose a Sustainable Supply Chain

  • Ethical Sourcing: Ensure that products are sourced from suppliers who adhere to environmental and social standards. This helps create a more sustainable supply chain among retailers, suppliers, and vendors.
  • Supply Chain Transparency: Providing transparency about the origins of products and the sustainability practices of suppliers builds trust among the retailer’s audience. This also informs customers about the store’s commitment to sustainability in every element of the business.


Bring Community Engagement and Education

  • Customer Education: Customers, of course, are also a big part of sustainability in retail. Retailers should provide them with information on their sustainable practices, the environmental impact of their products, and ways customers can reduce their carbon footprint. This fosters a culture of sustainability between retailers and customers.
  • Community Programs: Retailers can also participate in or organize community clean-up events, tree planting, or sustainability workshops. This helps promote environmental awareness among the audience and strengthens community ties with the locality.


Remember that green retailing involves various practices in different parts of retail operations. To help promote retail sustainability, you need to assess your retail business and figure out which retail sustainability trends and strategies you can apply to your operations.


If you think digital labels will help you achieve sustainability in retail, it’s time to talk to SOLUM experts! A solution like the Newton ESL is a good stepping stone to being more sustainable as brands and retailers.

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