The whole world is going through a climate crisis (2020 was the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest year on record) and calls for individuals and businesses to be more conscious about their consumption and promote sustainable practices are increasing.

Consumers are increasingly wanting more sustainable products. Research from IBM found that nearly 6 in 10 consumers were willing to change their shopping habits to reduce their environmental impact. Additionally, nearly 8 in 10 respondents indicated that sustainability is important to them. Therefore, retailers will not only benefit the planet by becoming more sustainable but their customers will also appreciate the change.

Steps to make your business more sustainable

1. Switch to sustainable packaging

A lot of traditional packaging relies on plastic and other non-recyclable materials that can harm the environment.

One of the most important phrases to remember is: reduce, reuse, recycle. Whilst eliminating packaging completely is unrealistic, businesses can reduce the amount of packaging they use. Anything that can’t be reused as packaging should be recycled.

Due to increased attention on sustainability, there are numerous sustainable packaging alternatives now available. One alternative to plastic packaging is recycled packaging materials. For example, paperboard/cardboard. Paperboard is created using paper pulp and can be cut and shaped easily which makes it great for shipping boxes. Another alternative is plant-based packaging. This included packaging made out of biological sources such as food waste. Plant-able packaging has also become popular. The packaging contains seeds within it which can then be planted.

2. Go paperless by digitising receipts

In today’s digital world is it easier than ever for businesses to go paperless. A great way that retailers can minimise how much paper they use is by offering consumers a digital receipt option. 89% of consumers said they would like retailers to offer digital receipts as an option. Additionally, among consumers who preferred digital receipts to paper ones, 70% said digital receipts were better for the environment and that they found them easier to store.

3. Source more sustainable products

Whilst this isn’t an option for all retailers, many companies can become more environmentally friendly through the products they choose to sell. For example, fashion retailers can source clothes from brands that use sustainable and ethical procedures. For example, Lucy & Yak is an ethically and sustainably made brand. Each of its garments are made from organic fabrics and are produced by its factory in north India where workers are paid four times the state minimum wage. Additionally, all packaging is 100% recyclable and biodegradable.

Smoothie brand Innocent Drinks is another example of an ethical and sustainable business. They aim to use as little material as possible in their packaging as well as using recycled or renewable material.

4. Refillable products

In the last few years’ multiple supermarkets have trialled refillable products in an attempt to combat packaging waste. The idea is that consumers use durable packaging (such as Tupperware or other food containers) to refill products from dispensers in supermarkets.

For example, Morrisons tested a scheme where frozen fruit, pasta and seeds were moved to dispensers so customers could bring their own containers to fill them up. They even offered a 10% discount on these products in order to incentivise customers.

ASDA opened a sustainability store in Leeds and now has added 50 new products to its refill isle. Products such as Coca-Cola, Yorkshire Tea and Kellogg’s can all be refilled at the store.

However, it is not just supermarkets that are using refillable products. The Body Shop has a refill scheme where its customers can purchase a reusable aluminium bottle to fill with the shower gel, hand wash or hair care products on offer. Once the product has been used, customers can come back into the store to refill the bottle.

Surveys have found that 75% of consumers are open to buying refillable products.

Sustainability is clearly important to consumers, and it should be important to retailers too. By taking small steps, even just the four outlined in this post, retailers can become more environmentally friendly and lessen their impact on the planet.