7 ways to make your retail store more sustainable

Sustainability

How to make your retail store more sustainable

You and your retail business have been through ups and down over the last few years. You’re always pushing to get back on track. You’re thinking of ways to grow this year. One innovative way to differentiate from your competitors and attract new customers and employees is to make your business greener. Sustainability is becoming a priority and concern for consumers, specifically Millennials and Gen Z. Millennials are most often in a position to purchase retail goods. They are the lifeblood of your retail business. Gen Z is not far behind them. 

How does sustainability impact profitability?

Quick myth buster. Many people think that the only way a business can make money from “being greener” is through cost cutting. Not true. Cost cutting, or finding efficiencies, is one way to positively impact your bottom line. The other way is generating new clients and getting new revenue from customers who admire your responsible business strides. Add up cost cutting measures PLUS new revenue streams. This is the way to justify your efforts with sustainability projects in your retail business.  

Here are 7 ways your retail store can become greener

  1. Save energy at your storefront. Look into federal, state, or provincial government credits or grants for switching out old and inefficient air conditioners or furnaces. Replace energy-sucking refrigeration units with eco-friendly options. Switch out leaky windows or older window coverings. Switch to an automated thermostat which can be set to keep your customers cool during the day, but not at night. There are many experts in this area and good information online to learn ways to cut costs and save unnecessary energy consumption. 
  2. Eliminate plastics and use recycled packaging. Likely you are already starting this. Plastic bags at the checkout are going the way of the dodo bird. If you still give them out, a switch is easy. There are several local packaging suppliers that can give you inexpensive options. Buy a stamp with your logo on it, and brand your biodegradable or recycled bags. This change is a great first step to becoming greener, and showing your customers, employees, and partners that you are mindful of the planet. 
  3. Source sustainable products. Experts believe that businesses that do not start thinking about sourcing environmentally friendly items will begin losing market share. Consumers are looking for easy ways to become a bit more eco-responsible. Be that partner for them. Give them products that they can use to meet their personal life changes. A good example of this is planet-based meat. Groceries stores stocking these options are seeing more demand. 
  4. Encourage reusing or sharing. Several retail stores have created a reuse, share, or donate program. You could too. For example, if you are a hardware store, you could accept used tools from your customers. Then, you could sell them at a discounted rate, or donate them to a good cause. If you don’t already, you could rent tools out. This small gesture of reusing or sharing is a good way to demonstrate your retail store’s commitment to the planet. Both the circular economy and the sharing economy are trending topics for Millennials. 
  5. Net-zero your shipping. If you have an eCommerce online cart, look into offering an option for offsetting carbon emissions at the checkout for your customers. Shopify offers this today. It is up to the consumer if they want to “offset shipping” or not. The cost is minimal. The impact is substantial. Other companies are also offering these options too. Check out Amazon, and even shipping companies like ShipStation. 
  6. Get creative. I’ve offered a few ideas above, but no one knows your retail store like you do. For other sustainability projects, look in your garbage can and start brainstorming. What do you waste each week that you could perhaps eliminate? For example, is there always a trash can full of coffee cups? Give your employees reusable cups with your brand on them to say thanks. This could help drive employee satisfaction and reduce the waste you place on the curb each week. 
  7. Steal great ideas. If all fails, head to your competitors or other retail shops local to you. What are they doing for the environment? While you can patent an idea, you can’t patent a sustainability initiative. Copy their idea in your own brick and mortar or online store. 

Make your green retail initiatives authentic

You might have read that many large businesses have been accused of “greenwashing.” Greenwashing is being dishonest about a company’s true environmental impact. These businesses say they are green, but then get caught dumping chemicals out back. Your business won’t do that. Even though you are just starting along your sustainability journey, you should and need to share your strides with your stakeholders. Celebrate them. You won’t be perfect at green right away. You won’t be 100% environmentally-conscious right away. That’s ok. Be honest about your early starts. Your retail customers and partners respect honesty and they respect authenticity. Tell your employees “we’re getting a bit greener.” Once the first few projects are rolling, you can use them to help you get a few more off the ground. The costs will be justified in your reduction of waste, employee retention, and activation of new customers and revenue streams.

Good luck!