Consumers today are becoming more environmentally conscious.  According to the American Sustainable Business Council, sustainability is more than just an environmental issue.  It involves developing an economy that is based on triple bottom-line values: people, planet, and profit.  The retail industry needs to develop policies that embrace the values in a way the retail industry does business.  Retailers today are seeking ways to improve their policies and practices that are responding to consumers’ demands. 

Sustainability in the retail industry focuses on the following areas:

  • Natural Resources
  • Energy and Greenhouse Gases
  • Waste Management
  • Supply Chain/Transportation Impacts
  • Handing of Chemicals

The use of natural resources is always at the top of sustainability concerns.  The two main issues are the environmental impacts of using raw materials and the risk of supply chain disruption. 

For retailers, energy can have a significant impact on the environment.  These are both direct impacts dealing with the level of energy consumption and indirect impacts associated with the greenhouse gases generated from energy production.  One of the biggest direct energy impacts is associated with lighting, where switching from florescent to LED lighting can have a significant impact. 

Waste management involves the handling of solid waste.  Solid waste is generated from disposal of shipping packaging, shopping bag use, and end- of-product life disposal.  Many retailers are looking toward a zero-waste concept, 100 percent recycling of all solid waste. 

Within the retail industry another sustainability concern is with supply chain purchasing and supply chain transportation and logistics.  The sustainability of purchasing of goods and services in the supply chain has an impact on local communities, the environment, and the economy.  With respect to supply chain transportation/logistics, how a retailer imports and distributes its goods can have a significant impact on the generation of greenhouse gases.  Less miles traveled by ship, airplane, truck or rail means less greenhouse gas emissions. 

Many retailers’ products contain chemicals as a result of the manufacturing process.  However, in many cases these chemicals are not harmful.  Because most retailers do not manufacture the goods they sell, in order to have an impact on the chemicals being used they must deal with their suppliers and manufacturers to ensure that the chemicals being used and the emissions generated during the manufacturing process meet all applicable environmental standards. 

While many efforts are underway within the retail industry, more efforts are needed and new and innovative ways of addressing sustainability need to be developed.  A continued emphasis on sustainability by the retail industry and the sharing of new ideas will go a long way to address consumers’ concerns over climate change and sustaining the planet for future generations. 

Have questions regarding sustainability and the environmental issues impacting your industry? Call us at 800.717.3472 to speak with an environmental professional today and learn how we can help!