Many retail sectors, particularly the fashion industry, are under the microscope when it comes to current sustainability and environmental issues. Well-known fashion brands such as Furla, Gucci and Versace are trying to lead the charge by taking the forward-thinking approach of banning real fur from their production lines.
In fact, the fashion industry is so much under the lens, that the Fashion Revolution initiative regularly reports on how much the largest fashion brands and retailers disclose about their social and environmental policies and practices via their annual Fashion Transparency Index.
Orsola de Castro, Founder and Creative Director at Fashion Revolution explains: “Transparency is visibility. We want to see the fashion industry, respect its producers and understand its processes. We want a clear, uninterrupted vision from origin to disposal to foster dignity, empowerment and justice for the people who make our clothes and to protect the environment we all share.”
But it’s not just the fashion industry that needs to be on top of sustainability issues.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) reports that “93% of global consumers expect more of the brands they use to support social and environmental issues.” The report also found that “an estimated 68 million adult Americans base purchasing decisions on their values - personal, social, and environmental - and say they will spend up to 20% more on environmentally sound products.”
Given the increasing importance of sustainability within retail, we were keen to understand how data, technology and systems integrations can play their part for retailers of all sizes, as well as what some brands are doing in response to these environmental issues.
Sustainability in Retail: How Data & Technology Play Their Parts
In the past, a vast majority of companies would have struggled to get a complete picture of the impact of their own operations. Separate documents and separate systems made collecting and understanding data increasingly difficult, resulting in “gut feel” decisions as opposed to data-driven ones.
Particularly when we consider the supply chain, data of the right format becomes a crucial factor. With the ability to gain business-wide data from an ERP or back-office system, you’ll gain visibility into your operations and supply chain. You’ll be able to quickly identify trends and discover information about suppliers and your products, providing you with the opportunity to see where things need to change, and how.
But it’s not just data that plays a crucial role in helping you to analyze just how sustainable your business practices are. Technology plays its part too.
Efficient inventory and warehouse management, for example, are key in allowing you to establish efficient picking routes within the warehouse to help minimize fuel and energy consumption of drones, forklifts or other vehicles you use within your warehouse. You can then start making dents in the overall goal of reducing the carbon footprint of your inventory.
The introduction of barcode scanners and cloud-based warehouse management systems also mean businesses can establish what some are now deeming a “paperless warehouse”. In fact, the idea of going paperless can be replicated across the business with the help of company-wide cloud-based systems.
Although these may seem like simple, small changes, they can have a drastic impact on your business and how sustainable it is, ensuring you use your resources more effectively, prevent waste, and reduce energy costs.
Furthermore, by allowing certain business systems to do the “heavy-lifting” for you, such as automating common admin tasks, you’ll free up staff time, which can then be spent not only on business growth, but also on discovering ways in which your business can be more sustainable.
Sustainability in Retail: Real World Examples
Anna Maria Rugarli, Head of Sustainability at VF Corporation recently advised that within many companies, sustainability is becoming a business strategy. She says: “It is an urgent and pressing priority, not only for VF Corporation and our brands, but for the whole industry. It is integrated at a business level for us, which will help us move into the future - we need to stay relevant to consumers and competitive in an increasingly eco-conscious market.”
We’ll now highlight some real world examples of businesses using Brightpearl that have also made sustainability a key part of what they do, their brand and their business strategy.
Mono-strategy at Greater Than A
Greater Than A are a sustainable clothing brand based in Oslo, Norway, which is joint-owned by professional athlete and gold medallist, Aksel Lund Svindal, as well as Sales and Marketing Director, Marius Eckmann and Product Director, Terje Strömö.
Jens-Petter Ring, Greater Than A’s Design Project Leader recently told us: “We have a huge initiative to change the clothing industry into a more sustainable direction. Our brand is founded on three pillars: to be appealing, functional and sustainable.”
Everything about this company is tied to this sustainability mission, even their brand name, which symbolizes their mission of making the fashion industry more sustainable. In other words, being “greater than Aksel”.
One way they ensure their practices are sustainable is by using a mono-strategy within their business, in which they never combine synthetic fabrics like polyester with organic materials. This strategy ensures their products can be easily recycled and thus, can go into a circular economy and reduce over-consumption.
Learn more about this forward-thinking company in their customer story.
Sustainable packaging at Evolve Beauty
Based in Hertfordshire, England, Evolve Beauty design and market organic cosmetics with environmentally friendly packaging.
This is another example of a business that has put sustainability at the core of what they do, including their brand name. According to Evolve Beauty’s founder story, this is related to the belief that “it is time for beauty to evolve. Society is coming full circle and realizing that choosing natural ingredients is better for us and our world.”
Their products are organic and natural, as well as being vegan and cruelty free. They’ve even ensured their packaging is eco-friendly, such as switching all of their plastic bottles to 75% post consumer recycled bottles.
They also encourage their customers to upcycle the packaging once the products have been used via this inspirational Pinterest board!
Educational content at Natural Baby Shower
Operating from Surrey in England, Natural Baby Shower sell a wide range of natural, organic and ethically made baby products.
Victoria Hampson, Founder of Natural Baby Shower explains on their ‘About Us’ page: “Choosing natural doesn't mean forfeiting style or paying loads more... there is a lovely feeling knowing your child is wearing natural fibres! Plus a little difference to the planet adds up to a lot!”
The team over at Natural Baby Shower also ensure their content is helping to educate customers and potential customers about the importance of natural and organic baby products.
Blogs like this one about how the company is celebrating Earth Day is a great example of how they’re educating their customers. They even have a ‘Be Informed’ category on their blog dedicated to environmental topics and how best to use their products.
Find out more about the company and how they’re using Brightpearl in their customer story.
We hope this article has been both educational and inspirational on how you might be able to improve the sustainability of your retail business. Are you already on a mission to improve your practices? We’d love for you to jot down a few thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.