Over the past few years, sustainability has increasingly become an important consideration in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Heightened competition in the industry has also put pressure on e-commerce and retailers to respond to consumer demands for brands to become advocates and champions of values that align with their own.
In our latest panel discussion, we sat down with retail sustainability experts to understand how sustainability is becoming a necessity for brands.
The discussion was moderated by Pia Pinkawa, Sustainable Supply Chain & Communications Expert and was joined by the following sustainability experts:
- Chris Foley, Head of Energy & Environment of Kmart Group
- Sarah Garner, Founder of Retykle
- Nina Shariati, Founder and CEO of Donate Hour and Circular Transparency.
Topics covered in the discussion include:
- What is the “circular economy”?
- How are customers responding to the sustainability movement?
- What are the key challenges in retail sustainability?
- How can retailers start on their sustainability journey?
What Does Sustainability Mean?
The discussion started with a simple question of what sustainability means to our panelists. The consensus reached amongst our panelists was that sustainability is ultimately making sure that we can continue to create value for the future generation. To do so, we have to first understand how businesses impact our community and environment. Next, we have to create boundaries on how the planet’s resources are used to make sure that these resources are not depleted. We particularly liked what Nina said:
“Leave the planet in the same way that we found it, but possibly in a better way.”
Why is Sustainability a Necessity?
From prolonged warm temperatures, deadly wildfires to severe floods — it is clear that we are in the midst of an ecological crisis, and we as a community must take action to reverse the consequences of our actions. Particularly for fashion retailers, climate change and rising sea levels pose a huge threat to the coastal cities in Southeast Asia, which is where the majority of manufacturers and workforce are located.
For most businesses, driving profits has been and will continue to be their top priority. However, it has been increasingly important for businesses to share the same values with their customers and stakeholders. In particular, Sarah shared how customers and stakeholders these days are more aligned with companies that have put sustainability at the core. Apart from sustainability being a moral and ethical imperative, Chris also added how sustainability can be great for businesses if you do it right. Being a sustainable business helps businesses to develop a competitive advantage whilst creating new business opportunities, and attracting investors.
Today, the traditional business model where more is better is quickly losing relevance. Instead, one should develop a sustainable business practice that does not compromise the quality of life for future generations.
How Can Businesses Get Started With Sustainability?
Before diving straight into the type of sustainable practices businesses can implement, it is crucial to obtain an internal alignment from within the company. Sustainability starts at the top. An organization must begin with the full commitment from the top management and be embedded within the goal and strategy of the business. Once there’s a clear goal and strategy, businesses can start to identify where they can start, by analyzing the nature of their business and looking at where they will be able to make the most impact.
Sarah shared a great place one can start:
“Start looking at the end of life of the product and then work backward. Think of where your product will end up after they are used up and then work backward to inception.”
For the full discussion, check out the video below. You wouldn’t want to miss it!