Whether you call it ethical, green-focused, or socially responsible, today’s consumers expect better behavior from retailers. Plus, consumers want retailers to deliver products and choices that help them do the same.
That means you need to be aware of how the green movement is continuing to change perspectives, influence consumers, and push for industry improvements. And, if you don’t know where to start, then you should consider current green retail trends and how you might leverage them in your own business.
Make Incremental Changes
You can’t “green” your entire retail operation overnight. It takes time to migrate processes from paper-based models to digital formats. Plus, not every aspect of your business may have a green solution available. Even some change makes an impression with your audience because they see your retail operation shifting.
For example, if you have one or more brick-and-mortar locations, start making changes related to energy consumption. Make the switch to light-emitting diode (LED) or compact fluorescent (CFL) lights or use environmentally safe cleaning supplies. If possible, add solar panels to your building or partner with the local shopping center and other retailers to add these panels to parking lots. Whatever you decide, start with an energy audit to understand how much power you are using now and what these suggested changes may do to improve consumption.
Rather than throwing anything away, donate leftover perishable food to food pantries or soup kitchens. Take other products to recycling organizations or donate to nonprofits that can upcycle them into items for those in need.
If you are an e-commerce retailer, find ways to reduce your packaging for shipping. Look for alternative packaging options that are more environmentally friendly and show you are thinking about the environment first.
Share Stories About Doing Good
Today’s consumers are searching for feel good stories that show positive change. As a retailer, you can share what you are doing to create a more ethical, green, or socially-directed business.
These inspirational stories may involve organizations where you donate part of your profits to show what they are doing. Or, you can share the process you’ve gone through to transform your business to be socially responsible. The stories also illustrate that you are doing more to be green than just talking about it.
Help Customers Be More Environmentally Responsible
In many states, single-use plastic products (bags, cutlery, and straws) are being banned. While you can still offer the products – sometimes for a fee – when customers ask for them, it may be a better strategy to provide them with an alternative rather than just ban products or expect customers to always be prepared.
For example, you might give loyal customers one or more branded canvas totes for their purchases, or you can offer them reusable metal or glass straws in a case. Also, focus your product selection on companies that are locally sourced and use sustainable practices. Or, opt for partners who offer transparent information about ingredients and manufacturing to help your customers become more responsible with their choices.
Another option to help customers is to provide digital receipts that can be e-mailed or sent via SMS to them. While it may seem like a small way to help customers, think about how many paper receipts you produce on a daily basis in your retail operations. Plus, they can use these email or text receipts for their financial tracking rather than misplacing the paper ones.
Start a Dialogue and Ask for Ideas
As a company, you don’t need to always have the answers. Get your employees and customers involved. Today’s trend is about collaboration to solve these bigger social issues. Social media can be a platform to begin the conversation with a larger audience about changing retail for the better.
Not only will the rest of your stakeholders like that you are reaching out for their input, but you also may get some innovative suggestions to improve your “greening” efforts. Start with a survey about green and responsible businesses and goals to gauge your audience’s overall perspective. From there, you might host a live stream town-hall-style event to stimulate further discussion.
Later on, you can use these ideas to make changes and share the stories with your audience. In this way, your efforts come full circle and continually push your retail operation closer to green.