5 Ways your business can become more sustainable (right now)

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Simple ways for brands to improve their environmental footprint


Step inside Country Road’s flagship store in Melbourne’s Chadstone mall and you’ll be surrounded by linen dresses and tailored pant suits. But look beyond the clothing, and it’s the fittings and fixtures that make this store stand out.


Designed to a rigorous 5-Star Green Star Design Review standard, the store features sustainable flourishes like recycled wall cladding and clothing hooks.


Such meticulous focus on sustainable design would have been unheard of for a major mainstream brand even a decade ago. But consumers increasingly expect brands to take the lead on environmental policies. 


Although not all retailers can afford to give their store a sustainable makeover, experts say there are many ways to become more sustainable. The key, says Sydney retail strategist Selena Knight, is to “embrace sustainability as an ethos, not just a token marketing tactic”.


Here are five steps retailers can take to become more sustainable: 


1 Evaluate packaging

Look for opportunities throughout your business to reduce, reuse and recycle, says Melinda Tually, the director of consultancy Ndless, which helps retailers like David Jones and the Cotton On Group develop sustainability strategies. 


If you package products, avoid virgin paper or plastic, and switch to recycled packaging or compostable bags such as those produced by Heaps Good packaging. If your inventory arrives in soft packaging, which generally can’t be recycled in standard collections, consider partnering with Redcycle to keep it out of landfill.  


Reassessing your approach to packaging might even save money: Australian beauty retailer Adore Beauty reviewed its packaging process in 2017, saving the company more than $100,000 the following financial year in the process.


2 Change customer behaviour

While asking customers if they need a bag before automatically providing one is an obvious way to reduce waste, there are plenty of other methods to encourage better habits, says Tually. Every transaction is an opportunity to effect change. “Plant a tree for every purchase of a certain value sold, for example.” Platforms like i=change allow retailers and customers to donate to philanthropic causes, such as environmental charities, with every online transaction. 


3 Decrease returns

One way to reduce your brand’s environmental footprint is to reduce the likelihood of returns, says the CEO of Fluent Commerce, Graham Jackson. “Take a look at the photographs of your products online - could they be better? Ensure that measurements and sizing are clearly understandable, and that the images shown accurately depict the quality of the item.”


4 Switch couriers

If you use couriers, find one with a strategy to reduce carbon emissions, such as Movepal, which offsets every trip through not-for-profit organisation Greenfleet. There’s also Sendle, which is 100 per cent carbon neutral and geared towards small business. You could also send items by bike instead of car as much as possible. Offering a collection point service like Hubbed, which allows customers to pick up purchases from more than 2000 newsagents, service stations and other collection points around Australia, can also cut emissions. 


5 Reduce or avoid travelling

Consider whether meetings can be done via Google Hangouts or Zoom instead of travelling. When travel is a must, commit to a policy that sees all flights offset through a reputable programme such as those offered by Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Qantas. These voluntary programs are certified and independently verified under the federal government’s National Carbon Offset Standard. 


Nina Hendy is a business and finance journalist who contributes regularly to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age


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