3 sustainability mistakes that sabotage retailers’ businesses

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It’s retailers’ job to help customers manoeuvre their sustainability dilemma and gently nudge their behaviour into more sustainable actions. They play a pivotal role as they are a central point between demanding ethically source materials from suppliers, while creating consumer demand for such products – all of which contribute to creating a more circular economy, says new report You, Me and Sustainability by BJJS.

The report looked at the main ways retailers are shifting to a circular economy based on their value chain.

1. Customer education

According to the report, the majority of the retailers offer a little customer education about sustainability. This is because retailers are concerned that this will impact their businesses as they don’t want to push their ethos onto their customers in an overbearing way. The trick that they’re missing – if they fail to promote their sustainability focus – they risk losing ‘green’ customers.

The report say that eco-friendly retailers do have detailed information online on their sustainability initiatives. When it looked at both websites and social media – whether an established retailer or start-up – there was a breadth of information to educate their customers around the sustainability of their products. However, this sustainability focus isn’t replicated in-store. Retailers need to show-off their sustainability focus in-store so that they can stay in touch with the changing dynamics of customer demands.

2. Value chain transparency

The retail is beginning to see elements of the value chain transparency, with increasing levels of sustainably designed products, sustainably sourced materials and more re-use initiatives, says the report. It points to the next level of ‘green’ initiatives for retailers – everything from sustainable design, transport, and to reuse of materials.

However, this is a big challenge for retailers to overcome. The majority of retailers rely on third parties for material sourcing, production and transport – they can be clear on how each element of their value chain works. This honesty and transparency around what they’re doing and the challenges they face will build trust and customer loyalty.

3. Men’s fashion

The analysis points to the gap in sustainable men’s fashion. It says that most of the sustainable fashion is targeted towards women. It attributes the notion to the sustainability deriving from veganism – an area in which men are “lagging on,” with only 37% men vegan males, compared to 63% of females. Retailers have another important role to play in creating men’s fashion products that are sustainable.

While there may not be enough demand at this stage for a new fashion start-up, there is an opportunity for established retailers to create this demand. If a retailer’s business model doesn’t rely on the success of a sustainable men’s fashion, they can generate their own USP by being the first one to focus on this area.


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