Sustainable thinking is now prevalent across everything we do. Since 2014, we’ve seen the six warmest years on record. The growing implications of climate change and the disruption this has on national economies and communities has been recognised at a global scale, with the UN identifying ‘Climate Action’ as one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In September this year, government leaders, businesses and international organisations also convened at the World Economic Forum’s fourth annual Sustainable Development Impact Summit to further initiate, accelerate and scale-up their solutions to tackle climate change and advance sustainable practices and development.
But have these priorities permeated through various industries, in particular retail display? Our Retail Display Sales Manager, Ben Chambers, explains how design agencies, manufacturers and other businesses in the retail space can adopt sustainable thinking.
Environmental and ethical stewardship and personalised communications have changed the way people shop. Sustainable thinking is no longer a nice to have or something that clients can pay premium for, it is imperative. Therefore, manufacturers and retailers need to find ways to be environmentally conscious whilst producing viable retail solutions. We now know that real change can happen faster than previously imagined, and for all its challenges, 2020 has made us question what is important and how we can collectively do better.
According to a report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association in America, 93% of global consumers expect more of the brands they use to support social and environmental issues. They are also willing to spend up to 20% more for environmentally sound products. Additionally, the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 which asked participants to choose what they saw as the top challenges for the world before and after the pandemic, shows that for Millennials and Gen Z climate change and protecting the environment remains at top of the list, aligning their priorities with the UN SDGs. For these demographics, it’s equally important that the brands they support champion their values. This means adopting sustainable practices in retail manufacturing is not only crucial for environmental sustainability, but needed to ensure retailers attract these generations of consumers and create brand loyalty.
So how can retail manufacturers develop these sustainable practices?
In the retail industry, we’ve seen brands reduce their use of plastics in display packaging and use recyclable stock where possible; a trend that’s echoed at a global scale. During the recent SHOP tour of the EuroShop Exhibition, the colour green was more prevalent than the rest because it represents sustainability, which was the biggest theme of the event.
Manufacturers can adopt sustainable thinking by using the three R’s for everyday processes in their strategies to reduce their environmental impact. That is, reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s important to consider how this can be applied across the entire lifecycle of the job from manufacturing, print, packaging, and freight, to the ease of recycling for the end-user. In Australia, the market is unique, a low population combined with a wider supply area. Therefore, manufacturers would need to give thought to the methods of transport at the beginning of every brief, in order to design solutions with fewer environmental impacts.
Other areas to consider are the products used in the manufacturing process. Take temporary displays as an example, manufacturers could explore ways to remove plastic and use sustainable materials by removing Corro clips from their displays. When it comes to packaging, there’s also plenty of opportunities to think outside the box and reduce or remove the need for materials like cello. The removal of plastic also benefits retail store staff who can discard entire units into recycling bins without needing to separate the plastic components, saving them time. With 130,000 tonnes of Australian plastic ending up in our waterways and oceans each year, these simple steps help us do our part in decreasing the amount of plastic produced and consumed annually.
Aside from the overwhelmingly positive environmental benefits of these actions, they also align with the global priorities in reducing plastic usage and developing sustainable practices. We’re in a time of change driven by the pressing issues we face as a collective that’s recognised by governments, businesses and consumers. Retailers and manufacturers will need to keep sustainable manufacturing at the forefront of their operations in order to continue to attract and retain customers.
By Ben Chambers