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Embracing Sustainability in Retail: Why It Matters and How to Achieve It!

In recent years, sustainability has emerged as a key concern for businesses worldwide, including Canadian retailers. Beyond being a buzzword, sustainability is a fundamental concept that impacts not only our environment but also business success and customer loyalty. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 94% of consumers believe it’s the brands responsibility to create sustainable products that do not harm the earth1. In this blog, we'll explore why Canadian retailers should care about sustainability and discuss tangible actions they can take to integrate sustainable practices into their operations.


Why Sustainability Matters for Canadian Retailers


Simply put, consumers are starting to demand it! Surveys have shown that 45% of those aged 18-34 years old (Gen Z and Millennials) consider the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions1. Millennials and Gen Z consumers comprise a large portion of the buying power in Canada, spending $237 billion and $50 billion per year, respectively2;3. Furthermore, in a recent 2023 survey conducted by Deloitte, 62% of Canadians are willing to pay a premium of 20% or more on sustainably produced goods and services1.


Aside from increasing consumer loyalty, taking sustainable measures such as reducing energy, water, packaging, and waste can reduce costs, as well as emissions.


Regulations are also on the horizon. Specifically, in Canada, one major regulation impacting retailers is the single use plastics ban. As of December 2022, the manufacture and import for sale of single use plastics was banned in Canada, and as of December 2023, the sale of single use plastics to consumers will be banned4. Retailers that proactively adopt sustainable practices are better positioned to comply with these regulations.


Another major benefit of embedding sustainability into your retail business is risk mitigation. Sustainability practices can help retailers manage risks associated with climate change, resource scarcity, and supply chain disruptions. By diversifying suppliers and relying on more local suppliers, retailers can reduce vulnerabilities and reduce emissions associated with product transportation.


Therefore, there are sizeable benefits to implementing sustainability strategies into your retail business, including increased customer loyalty, cost savings, reduced supply chain disruptions, and an overall positive impact on the environment.


Sustainability Strategies – How you can take action!


The following are some ways to take action:


  1. Energy Efficiency

Invest in energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling systems within stores and warehouses. For example, install LED lighting, or smart thermostats that limit heating and cooling when the building is unoccupied. You can implement smart technologies like motion sensors to reduce lighting use.


2. Waste Reduction

As stated previously, the single use plastic ban is coming to Canada and all businesses are going to be impacted. By eliminating single-use plastics and encouraging reusable shopping bags and containers, not only can you avoid potential fines, you can promote sustainability to your consumers. You can also consider implementing recycling and composting programs in stores to minimize landfill waste.


3. Green your Supply Chain and Reduce Supply Chain Disruption


You can also green your supply chain by prioritizing suppliers that are sustainable. This includes sourcing products with environmentally friendly materials, reducing packaging waste, and ensuring fair labour practices. By using the most optimal transportation routes and/or favouring local suppliers, you can minimize transportation of goods and associated greenhouse gas emissions. This also minimizes the risk of supply chain disruptions caused by climate change and extreme weather events that may impact international trade routes.


4. Employee Training and Engagement.


In all industries, employees are starting to demand that their companies take action against the impacts of climate change. Surveys have found that both Gen Z and Millennial workers want to see tangible environmental action (e.g., sustainability training, and banning of single use plastics)5. Training your employees in sustainability increases retention, and they are also well-positioned to recommend initiatives to increase your business’ sustainability.


5. Authentic Marketing


It’s important to be transparent with your consumers and accurate in your marketing communications. It is critical to avoid greenwashing your products, as it can lead to distrust between you and your consumers – decreasing the likelihood of them purchasing from your business again. Authentically marketing your sustainable products or services pays off– as 75% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that offer green or sustainable products1.


In conclusion, there are various ways that you can embed sustainable practices into your retail business. Sustainability is not just a moral imperative; it's also a smart business strategy for Canadian retailers. By embracing sustainability and taking concrete actions, retailers can attract eco-conscious consumers, reduce costs, and ensure their long-term viability in an increasingly environmentally aware marketplace.


How Achieve Sustainability Can Help!


Reach out and let us help you embed sustainability into your retail operation. We can assist with energy efficiency and waste reduction initiatives, employee engagement, and assist you with communicating your sustainability initiatives authentically. Sign up here for a complimentary consultation.


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