The retail sector represents an important contributor to the economic landscape of the United Kingdom, employing an average of 3 million people across more than 235,000 enterprises, according to Statista. For the sake of clarification, the retail sector encompasses businesses involved in the sale of new and used goods to the general public for personal or household consumption/utilisation, such as shops, department stores, supermarkets, and Internet retailers, to name a few.
Companies that serve consumers directly often present themselves as influential and trustworthy actors for the good of the environment, but they don’t always practise what they preach. To be more precise, this presentation isn’t mirrored in what retailers do and how they organise their plans for successful outcomes. For an industry that’s so strongly driven by responding to customer needs, it should take its active role in reducing carbon emissions seriously. Businesses that don’t care about their carbon footprint risk losing customers, investors, and employees.
Urgent action towards net zero emissions is needed in the fight against climate change. A transition to more sustainable practices and products is a must in terms of meeting customer needs, with heightened interest in sustainable lifestyles, plant-based foods, and renewable and reusable goods. Leading retailers should join their forces and exhibit industry-wide support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Besides the compelling business case, there’s a moral case to act.
A New Report Indicates the Retail Sector in The UK Has Been Given a Boost on The Eco Front
The retail sector accounts for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom, driven by the use of refrigeration and air conditioning systems that use HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). Much of the emissions take place in the retail value chain. To make impactful reductions, retailers must overcome several challenges, such as the proliferation of purchasing channels and delivery options. When consumers acquire goods online, the chief factors influencing carbon emissions are hard to measure.
The good news is that companies are finally decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from business growth. The retail sector has experienced a significant drop in carbon emissions during 2023, according to a report by ESG data intelligence company Deepki. According to the findings of the SaaS platform, retailers in the United Kingdom are making crucial steps towards a sustainable future, moving closer to net zero.
Waste management is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Retailers deal with various types of packaging waste e.g., cardboard) as stock is transferred between warehouses and stores’ not only does it cost money, but it also causes environmental issues. Recycling balers and waste compactors have proved to be invaluable in streamlining the waste management process, playing a pivotal role in facilitating resource recovery and landfill space management. You can view the cardboard range here.
The efforts of retail companies are starting to pay dividends, but it’s necessary to keep in mind that it’s a long journey that’s just beginning. Almost all retailers are familiar with the concept of ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) and are motivated to accelerate ESG ambitions to achieve fast progress. Currently, the United Kingdom doesn’t have a single law or regulation; its ESG policy consists of domestic and EU-derived laws and regulations.
Better Retail, Better World – UK Retailers and Sustainable Development Goals
The British Retail Consortium’s Better Retail, Better World initiative was launched in 2018 with the aim of building a fairer, more sustainable economy in harmony with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Climate action is one of the key objectives determined by the BRC and its stakeholders. By 2040, the British public can expect to buy or rent goods knowing they can make a big difference as regards climate change.
Supporters of the BRC roadmap are dedicated to working with other retailers, their suppliers, the government, and other stakeholders. Speaking of which, for the United Kingdom to lead the world’s decarbonisation, the retail sector and the government must consolidate and pool resources as competition intensifies. The challenge of creating a net-zero, nature-positive, equitable, and circular retail sector is too great for any company to achieve alone. This is precisely why retailers must cement new alliances, collaborate more broadly, and communicate more effectively.
As with other sectors, retailers must address their own direct and indirect emissions, to say nothing of those of their supply chain. The cost of decarbonisation will be incurred, to some extent, by stakeholders, including suppliers, employees, the public sector, investors, and, last but certainly not least, customers. In spite of the current challenges, companies that serve consumers directly must develop a climate strategy, which entails an in-depth, corporate-level assessment of carbon emissions.
UK Retailers Can Take Several No-Regrets Actions to Establish a Decarbonisation Strategy
Climate change is a threat that no one can afford to ignore, so each company must develop a decarbonisation strategy in line with the industry. In this respect, retailers can implement a series of “no regrets” measures to lay the foundation for a decarbonisation strategy and pinpoint funding for the transition, such as:
- Include Sustainability in Customer Research. Getting a better understanding of customers’ attitudes to sustainability and how to influence change matters. Premium shoppers are willing to pay for sustainable products, but research should be supported by real-world experimentation with pricing. Given the inflationary measures, adopting sustainable lifestyles may be more about saving money than saving the planet.
- Create Emissions Transparency at the Product Level. Nowadays, organisations are unable to exchange reliable emissions data across their value chains. Retailers should create emissions databases, investing in the necessary technology to make the information readily available, ensuring interoperability between solutions.
- Engage Key Investors on Decarbonisation Strategy and Planning. Retail sector investors are enthusiastic about the opportunities for decarbonisation, so it’s a good idea to open a dialogue and provide updates about strategy and planning. There’s a chance to secure funding through green bonds for short- to medium-term projects.
Action is paramount to comply with the technical standards for the completion of carbon reduction plans and satisfy the demands of modern customers. The retail sector was late to party, but it’s certainly made up for lost time.