We need to talk about sustainability

Antony Begley

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that sustainability is going to be one of the key issues in the local retailing sector in 2020.

We have a perfect green storm brewing with the Deposit Return Scheme finally beginning to take shape in Scotland, the likelihood that the Scottish Government will take some form of action on coffee cups, the manufacturers falling over themselves to reduce their impact on the environment and the great British public ensuring that sustainability is higher up the national agenda than it’s ever been.

The one group still conspicuous by its absence from this great shift is the local retailing sector. Yes, some retailers are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint but, as a general rule, it’s very rare to see any sort of environmental messaging in most stores or even on their social media feeds. It still just doesn’t seem to be a thing for retailers yet. And that’s a dangerous position to be in.

As local retailers, it should be clear that our unique relationships with our customers and the communities we serve across Scotland mean that we have a responsibility to proactively dre the sustainability agenda. Our customers care about the environment and the next generation coming through care about it even more. It’s already becoming clear that the green credentials of the brands they buy and the stores they buy from are impacting upon their purchasing decisions. They will choose another brand if yours isn’t doing its environmental bit. They will choose another store if yours seems to be shirking its responsibilities.

The odd thing of course is that all local retailing outlets in Scotland already do a huge amount of sustainability work. They all recycle their cardboard packaging and they all recycle their food waste, for instance. But when was the last time you saw these facts communicated to customers? How much time and effort would it take to stick up of a sign in-store, or knock together a social media post explaining to customers that our industry already does these things?

The fact that we typically don’t communicate issues like this suggests it’s more of a mindset challenge than anything else. That’s why we need to talk about sustainability. In our stores. On our Facebook and Instagram pages. Face to face with customers. They are all easy things to do and could transform your relationships with customers and perhaps even help attract new faces through the door, new customers who want to buy from a store that takes its sustainability issues seriously.

When is the last time too that you communicated to customers around all the great sustainability work being done by many of the major suppliers? It would be easy enough to leverage that work for the benefit of your own store by simply adding a social media post highlighting how this supplier has changed the plastic they use, or that supplier has reduced the weight of its packaging by a certain percentage?

We need joined-up thinking to ensure our customers know we are leading from the front to put the interests of their world and ours at the top of the agenda.

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Antony Begley, Publishing Director