16th June 2021

The importance of sustainability initiatives

By TFRG Team

Here we discuss the importance of retailer sustainability initiatives and how retailers can benefit, alongside existing activity, from implementing these initiatives for environmental sustainability.

Sustainability in the retail industry

Retailers should be held accountable for the waste generated from their products. Around 7.4 million tonnes of waste is sent to landfill each year. The retail industry contributes 30% of this waste. The UK government introduced producer responsibility for packaging, to ensure producers meet their waste packaging recycling and recovery responsibilities.

While there are government measures to help prevent waste, and it is promising to see more retailers participating in local initiatives, more can be done to achieve a circular economy.

The importance of sustainability in retail 

The retail sector needs to focus on creating sustainability initiatives as retailers are responsible for a large proportion of waste. The UK is overly reliant on landfill, but research shows our landfill sites could burst their banks in 2022.

The problem needs addressing as a priority to reduce our bursting landfill sites and ensure sustainability in the retail industry.

It is, however, encouraging to note an increase in consumers reporting a rise in household recycling, guided by retailers providing advice on sustainable product disposal.

Addressing the UK’s waste problem 

If more retailers implement sustainability initiatives, this will encourage other retailers to take accountability. This will lead to a collective action to address the UK’s increasing waste problem.

Alongside this, it is important to note the increase in activity from retailers to positively improve recycling rates.

In 2015, Selfridges partnered with the Zoological Society of London to create ‘Project Ocean’. The aim was to raise awareness of how plastic bottles negatively impact the ocean. Selfridges stopped the sale of 400,000 plastic bottles in its stores, encouraging consumers to waste less plastic.

Another example of an initiative that was introduced to address the UK’s waste problem is the plastic bag charge. The producer responsibility initiative saw an 80% decrease in single-use plastic bags. However, the onus is on the consumer, when manufacturers of plastic bags and the retailers using them should be held responsible.

Improving brand image through sustainability 

Retailers can help improve their brand imaging through sustainability initiatives. Through associating a brand with sustainability, consumers trust that the products they buy are helping the environment. This can in turn generate a loyal consumer base. 

Retailers are becoming more aware of the methods they need to take in order to win over customers, and through providing proven results and transparency, showing the journey of products, they are reporting an increase in positive brand-consumer relationships being formed.

Changing consumer behaviour 

Since 2000, recycling has increased among consumers by around 8.6%, which suggests that consumers are becoming more ecologically conscious. However, in recent years this increase has slowed, rising by just 1.8 percent since 2015.

Despite the slowing of consumer recycling, 80% of shoppers in the UK would describe themselves as environmentally friendly. Further research also suggests that nine in 10 households recycle regularly.

It is evident that consumer behaviour is changing toward a more ecologically conscious mindset. Without sustainability initiatives, retailers could be alienating a percentage of their consumers from shopping with their business.

Although it is incredibly important to note the rise in supporting statistics, there is clearly still room for improvement to increase awareness of the importance of sustainability for consumers.

How are sustainability and consumer spending linked 

Retail and environmental sustainability have a close connection, with 82% of UK consumers considering environmentally friendly labelling when purchasing products. Initiatives for environmental sustainability are becoming an increasingly key factor for consumers when purchasing products.

Additionally, 64% of consumers said that they would buy sustainable products if there was a price parity between sustainable products and standard products. For retailers this could mean adding an environmental tax on products that are not sustainable or steering clear of selling any products that are not environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, 47% of consumers say they would buy sustainable products if they were easier to locate in stores. This could mean designing packaging that is clearly labelled as a sustainable product or ensuring that the products are placed in the correct section of a store. For example, this could be in a sustainable product section or placed near the competitor’s non-environmentally-friendly versions.

Why more retailers need to focus on sustainability measures

Retailers who continue to highlight and focus on promoting sustainability measures will reap many benefits, including improved brand imaging and building a loyal customer base. It is clear that consumers are becoming more ecologically conscious and are actively searching for retailers who support sustainability initiatives and truly care about the environment.

There are also cost-saving benefits for retailers who invest in sustainable waste management initiatives. Through switching to recyclable and recycled materials, retailers can remake products into raw commodities at the end of their life and use them to manufacture new products. This will save retailers the cost of buying new materials and disposing of old materials, reducing waste and saving the earth’s scarce resources.

It is important that more retailers focus on sustainability measures to tackle the ongoing issue of waste. More than 7.5 million mattresses are sent to UK landfills each year.

There are sustainable mattress solutions and we partner with retailers to offer the rejuvenation and recycling of mattresses that includes revenue recovery. Through our research and development programme, we’re creating a more viable and efficient mattress recycling process.

If you would like more information on mattress disposal, rejuvenation and recycling, please contact us today.

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