Sustainable Retail:The New Industry Buzzword

GUEST POST: Roselin Dey from cKinetics & a Natural Resource Management graduate from TERI

The sustainability coin has two sides: Sustainable production and  sustainable consumption. Newer compliance mandates and regulations  coupled with increased investor and client demands for responsible  business behavior have led to the onset and acceptance of more sustainable production practices. However, when it comes to promoting sustainable consumer behavior in  India, there is still a high hurdle to cross.

Even though consumer surveys show that more and more Indian upper  middle class consumers are ready to shell out extra money to buy  ‘greener products’, there is still no denying the fact that this group  constitutes only a small minority of the consumer class. One of the key  reasons for this limited uptake of responsible consumer behavior is that consumers still cannot relate to the environmental impact caused by the  products that are daily used or consumed by them. The only way to overcome this hurdle is for the brands to step forward and help  customers understand such aspects of product use, while also providing  them a wider range of more sustainable options.

Also read, Consumer push or business driven

Lately, a few forward thinking brands have come up with innovative  and ingenious methods to ensure that they influence consumer behavior  while also creating a positive brand image for themselves.

Environmentally Sustainable Retail – The Puma way

PUMA, leading sports lifestyle brand, made big news in the  sustainability circuits last year by releasing the first-of-its kind  Environmental Profit and Loss Account (E-P&L) for the company. Read the report here

PUMA’s E P&L was the first ever attempt to measure, value and  report the environmental externalities caused by a major corporation and  its entire supply chain and set a new benchmark in corporate  environmental reporting.

The firm added a new ‘green’ feather in its cap by opening the first  and only sustainable retail space in India. The store in Bangalore is  locally developed, sourced out of India, and incorporates a number of  revolutionary design elements to ensure that it meets the highest  criteria for sustainability. Poised to be the flagship store for PUMA in  India, the store is a global first for the brand.

Also read, “Don’t buy this Jacket” – And yet…

“PUMA is happy to take this pioneering step forward for the retail  industry”, said Franz Koch, CEO of PUMA. “Establishing a sustainable  PUMA Store underlines our commitment to reduce CO2 emissions, energy,  water and waste in PUMA offices, stores, warehouses and direct supplier  factories.”

“Our aim is to incorporate sustainability into every aspect – be it  in our design, use of material or packaging”, says Rajiv Mehta, Managing  Director of PUMA India..

Talking about the recent retail format initiative, Rajiv adds, “We  changed our mission statement a year ago to emphasize our commitment to  becoming the most desirable and sustainable sports lifestyle brand in  the world. We began with Clever Little Bag (a packaging solution), made  our headquarters in Germany a sustainable building and then forayed into  taking this to our most important and visible touch point – retail.”

The store, spread over an area of 5000 sq. ft., has design features  focused on enabling energy efficiency, optimal daylight usage, natural  cooling features and air insulation through earth air tunnel system. The store is also completely powered by renewable energy though solar PV  panels installed on the roof. Even the porotherm blocks used for  constructing the building shell have been made using silt from the  regional lakes which earlier ended up as waste.

Read about Roadmap to Zero, of which Puma is a part

Along with sustainable building design features, the PUMA sustainable  store would also be hosting a complete range of organic pesticide free  cotton merchandise as well as the PUMA Wilderness collection, a range  primarily sourced and produced in Africa using environmentally  sustainable materials and certified by the Aid by Trade Foundation  (AbTF). Additionally, the PUMA Store would also have an in-store  recycling program for footwear, apparel and soft accessories, called  ‘Bring Me Back’ launched in collaboration with global recycler I:CO.

Socially Sustainable Retail

Recently, fashion and lifestyle retailer, Shopper’s Stop pioneered  the entry of socially sustainable products into large-format retail. The  retail brand recently entered into partnership with Shop for Change, an  NGO collaborating with farmer groups across 5 Indian states to source  environmentally sustainable organic cotton while ensuring better  livelihoods for the farmers. Shopper’s Stop launched an exclusive range  of clothes using this fair trade cotton and also promoted it by organizing special sustainable retails sections within their stores.

Through such initiatives, leading brands as well as retailers are  clearly showing that they are ready to take the first step. Clearly long terms benefits are achievable by promoting sustainable  consumption and retail behavior as well – the key is to understanding  how to best leverage this opportunity.

This article originally appeared in Sustainability Outlook

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