Doing good is good for business

Antony Begley

Where do you stand on sustainability? Judging from conversations I’ve had with many retailers, building a more sustainable business with a reduced carbon footprint is an aim that most of us share – but bringing that goal to life in a convenience store is not without its challenges.

As local retailers with strong bonds to the communities we serve, there is clearly a certain amount of moral responsibility upon us as a sector to ‘do the right thing’, whether that means offering healthier eating options, supporting local causes or minimising our impact on the environment.

I would suspect that many retailers see sustainability as a ‘nice thing to do’ but one that often end up falling down the list of priorities behind all the stuff viewed as ‘mission critical’ – and for good reason. But here’s the thing: more and more evidence is accumulating that indicates that tomorrow’s shoppers – the infamous Generation Zs, for instance – are increasingly concerned with issues that broadly fall under the ‘ethical’ banner, and sustainability is undoubtedly one of them. Why is this a concern? Well, it seems highly probable that the new generations of shoppers coming through will base their purchasing decisions on more than just price and convenience.

They will be looking for the stores they use to take a responsible attitude to sustainability, a fact recognised publicly by everyone from the IGD to the SGF. The IGD even named sustainability as one of the five most important trends for 2019.

The impending introduction of a DRS scheme in Scotland has of course pushed sustainability much higher up the agenda for local retailers, but is it not time that we took sustainability more seriously anyway? After all, virtually every environmental improvement you can make will help the bottom line, either by reducing costs or by ultimately boosting sales. It turns out doing good is good for business.

Yes, many of us have introduced LED lighting and energy efficient fridges and sorted out our food waste and recycling, but how many retailers have gone beyond that and started to proactively look at how they can reduce their carbon footprint and improve their bottom line into the bargain? And how many of us actually communicate all the good sustainability work we do to our customers?

This stuff matters – and it’s going to matter a whole lot more in the near future, driven by both evolving customer demands and legislation. That’s why SLR is hosting a new Sustainability In Local Retail event on 27 March in Glasgow. We aim to tackle all these issues and help inspire retailers to make sustainability a core plank of their business strategy going forward. I would urge you to keep the date free and come along.

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Antony Begley, Publishing Director