Ethical retailing is more relevant now than it ever has been and is increasingly becoming an important part of a customer’s perception of a brand. As well as attracting or retaining potential customers, taking visible and decisive action to reduce the impact your business has on the environment and being committed to delivering a positive effect on society can also help to save money and attract highly-skilled employees.
Prospective candidates may view the ethical stance of your company as the deciding factor when faced with multiple job offers. What is clear is that many retailers would like to become more ethical, but often simply don’t know where to start. If this sounds familiar, here are some key ways in which your business can get started on the route to being a greener, more ethical retailing operation.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Recycling is possibly one of the most obvious solutions when it comes to being ‘greener’, but it is still surprising how many businesses do not recycle; especially when it can save money on refuse collections. It is not just paper and cardboard that can be part of recycling within the retail workplace, a range of waste products from light bulbs, ink cartridges, batteries and electrical equipment can also be recycled. Composters can also be suitable for certain companies, to recycle food or garden waste.
Upcycling, or buying second-hand furniture during store and office refurbishments is also a popular and ethical option; especially if purchased from charity shops or other independent retailers. Not only are you helping to reduce the likelihood of those items being deposited in the landfill, you’ll be able to add a quirky look and feel to your business whilst also gaining a great story to share with customers, the press and investors!
Recycling is an easy process to set up, but what’s more interesting is the long-term effects that these practices can have on your overall business. Research has shown that such schemes in companies can actually feed back into worker habits; resulting in the reduction of waste and greener practices across a number of departments and functions. With customers becoming increasingly conscious of where the product they are purchasing has come from; straightening out any inefficiency within your retail production line and the behaviours of your workforce can help reduce unnecessary air miles, pollution costs, waste produce and more.
Introduce Employee benefits & ethical retailing encouraging:
Aside from the practical elements that can be put in place, there are also numerous ethical encouragement and partnership schemes that can bring both employee benefits as well as enhance a company too.
Car sharing schemes are popular in large companies, particularly where parking spaces are limited. Car shares can help reduce congestion and pollution, alleviate parking issues as well as splitting fuel costs for employees. This can also help create and improve working relationships and morale between employees.
Cycle to work schemes are an increasingly popular method of ethical encouraging, with cycle storage and hire being made available at some companies, with showers also being installed to add to the incentive.
Joining other businesses on partnership schemes will allow for collaboration on environmental and sustainability issues, and is particularly useful for small or independent businesses, as it can enhance ethical responsibility while saving money. This can be anything from buying eco products from environmental traders, to increasing and sharing car share schemes with nearby companies.
Sell ex-display or damaged items
Much like with up-cycling and the purchasing of second-hand products, the buying and selling of ex-display models, or slightly cosmetically damaged items is growing increasingly popular. You can buy ex-display models for everything from furniture to a whole kitchen suite. This is largely due to the amount of discount offered on such items, but it can also be used as an opportunity to become greener, through reducing the number of products which may be scrapped due to defects, to reducing the costs and environmental effects associated with storing ‘unsellable’ products for long periods of time.
Through selling ex-display and slightly-damaged items, retailers can reduce the level of unwanted stock in the warehouse, reduce the level of scrapped items, increase sales and deliver customer satisfaction all in one go! The sale of ex-display items can also widen the reach of a business past its core clientele, presenting the opportunity to make
products more available and affordable to everyone whilst effortlessly growing your customer base.
Although not appropriate for every business, this concept is especially relevant to companies that deal in furniture or clothing, and it can be useful to advertise such models on the website or a dedicated online outlet store.
Make energy savings:
Energy saving initiatives are one of the most effective and noticeable ways in which retailers can save money and be more ethically responsible. This can either be done through minor but effective investments such as reminder stickers, which encourage employees to switch lights and appliances off after use, timers for heaters or fans, or through more long-term investments. More large-scale investments can include replacing lights to LED lighting or energy saving bulbs, smart energy meters or investment into the office infrastructure to save on heating, including insulation or solar power.
Ethical retailing is becoming an increasingly important consideration for consumers when choosing where to spend their money, meaning that retailers need to be more aware of their impact on the environment and society in order to stay competitive. Whether opting for minor changes or more large-scale investments, ethical retailing can deliver benefits to customers and employers as well as improve the bottom line.
Although there are a great many options to choose from, the important things are to get started and maintain it, so don’t run before you can walk. Make sure it becomes a habit and not just a ‘fad’ by choosing schemes that are both practical and appropriate for your business and have the best chance of being adopted as part of your operations in the long term.
Matt is a content strategist for a number of small businesses that operate on a local and national level. Matt has worked with major global brands’ online content & digital PR. He writes about marketing, social media, PR, SEO, and digital strategies for business and works at Distinctly.