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Six sustainability tips for retailers

Expert-approved efforts that resonate with eco-conscious Canadians

Retailers looking to implement sustainable practices and draw eco-conscious consumers to their stores in the process need to be authentic and clear about what they’re doing to be greener, say industry experts. 

Here are suggestions for sustainability efforts that will resonate with shoppers.

Be transparent

Figure out what green standards you want to implement and be transparent about promoting and adhering to them, says Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president of the Hartman Group. “As a consumer, once I know that a retailer’s values align with mine, I can go into their environment – virtual or physical – and not have to scrutinize everything.

Make it a team effort

Empower your employees to join your sustainability efforts. When they’re excited and knowledgeable about sustainable products and practices in-store, your customers will be, too.

Be accountable

Provide concrete evidence and measurable outcomes of your sustainability initiatives, through certification reports done in-house or through third-party audits. Make this information easily accessible (even when you miss your targets), so consumers know you’re not just greenwashing but serious about making progress.

Partner up

Find efficiencies by collaborating with other retailers (e.g. seek collective discounts from sustainable suppliers you’re all sourcing from).

Know your audience

Do your research to tap into what your shoppers care about most in terms of sustainability, so you can provide more targeted green initiatives in-store.

Remain realistic 

Make sustainable options more accessible. When it’s much more expensive to buy the refill option than the original item, there has to be a better way, says Natalie Babbage, a global director in Kantar’s Worldpanel Division and the company’s leading expert on sustainability in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).  “And no one has time to go to separate shops for refills or compost options,” she says.

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s August 2023 issue.

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