3 retail sustainability wins when embracing the potential of the store
- Posted on May 16, 2022
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
The disruption of the pandemic created profound change in the retail industry (and beyond) that few saw coming. But no-one can claim that the next era of change has arrived unforeseen. Because the climate crisis is now a permanent feature in news headlines across the globe.
Sustainability has become a pressing boardroom concern – one that retailers are being measured on, internally and externally. Customers, employees and stakeholders such as investors expect to see a real, tangible commitment to sustainability.
Consumers are leaning in to green brands – a recent Accenture study found that 81% of consumers plan to buy more environmentally friendly products over the next five years. Meanwhile, employees want to work for sustainable organizations – over a quarter would be willing to take a pay cut to work for an organization committed to the environment.
So, with sustainability a high priority, and with high expectations from all corners, where can retailers seize an advantage to accelerate their green initiatives?
Well, if the store is the home of retail, then the answer isn’t far away. Here are three store-centered opportunities that retailers can capitalize on to drive their sustainability programs forward.
#1: Capitalize on the consumer sustainability imperative
Today’s customers want to live, work and shop sustainably – demonstrating increased affinity to retailers who value and commit to green initiatives. According to Accenture data, 61% of consumers are making more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases.
And this trend extends beyond the sustainability of the products they buy, to the shopping experience itself. It’s here where the store has a crucial role to play – principally, as a hub for sustainable initiatives, such as eliminating waste and plastic packaging, increasing product reuse and recycling. Meanwhile, the store can also become a source for retailers to gather data on customer behavior and preferences, which can be harnessed to provide a better, greener physical shopping experience.
- How your stores can deliver a sustainability win:
Embrace digital in-store innovations like smart recycling platforms to gamify and energize the process. Avanade partners with leading smart store platforms like Ombori and Tomra to enable product reuse and recycling through smart bins and reverse vending machines. This not only educates and promotes initiatives to customers but builds loyalty too.
#2: Empower employees as environmental ambassadors
Employees want to work for sustainable brands – placing greater emphasis on ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues when they select an employer. This is a tide that has been rising for a number of years – and Gen Z employees are increasingly prioritizing values such as ESG alongside pay and benefits. Embracing (and celebrating) a sustainability approach can help you attract and retain engaged, motivated store associates.
Beyond that, employees are the ambassador for the retailer’s brand in store. They administer and enable sustainable practices on the ground (like emissions and waste reduction) and help to advise customers when it comes to making sustainable choices, such as product repair or recycling. The store is central to encouraging and enabling employee participation in sustainability programs.
- How your stores can deliver a sustainability win:
By adopting smart workspace technology, IoT and modernized frontline work platforms, retailers can empower employees to improve overall energy efficiency as well as specific focus areas (for example, by reducing emissions from refrigeration). Discover how we’ve worked with Swedish retailer ICA-Roslagstull to deploy our intelligent store framework, empowering employees with the digital tools to support sustainability-conscious operations.
#3: The supply chain springboard
The supply chain is perhaps the most pivotal area when it comes to sustainability in retail – with huge end-to-end impact. From sustainable product sourcing and merchandising through to inventory management, fulfilment and last-mile delivery – as well as returns and the circular economy.
The main contributor of many retailers’ carbon footprints is their supply chain – with raw materials, production and transportation the chief culprits of emissions. The supply chain challenge is bigger than your physical footprint – but the store can play a crucial role in enabling everything from intelligent efficient inventory management through to re-commerce models.
- How your stores can deliver a sustainability win: Implement modern real-time supply chain platforms with traceability technologies to transform transparency over in-store inventory. This will lessen transportation for unnecessary store deliveries and help to drive micro-fulfilment as well as optimized last-mile delivery (making sure goods travel on the shortest path to the consumer) – reducing emissions. And you’ll also be able to improve the management of inventory lifecycle and perishability – further reducing environmental impact by mitigating waste in the supply chain.
Reignite physical retail with a sustainable-first approach
We work with leading retail and consumer goods brands across the globe to enable and empower their environmental initiatives by unlocking the powerful potential of the Microsoft platform – including the Microsoft Cloud for Retail and Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability.