By Madeline Baumgartner
As part of the Shop! global sustainability initiative, the Creative Council launched a new podcast series focusing on Sustainability at Retail. In this new series, we will hear from retailers, brands, designers, manufacturers, and other leading professionals about the complex facets of sustainability in the new era of retail. Over the next few months, we will dig deep into such topics as what it takes to implement a sustainable program, how to communicate your efforts to your consumers, and sustainability according to the new generation. Key brands and retailers will make special appearances to share real-world examples.
The new series’ initial episode was moderated by Sarah Jo Sautter, director of marketing of JGA, and covered the importance of sustainability during the new world of retailing. Leading experts on sustainability discussed brands’ and consumers’ appetites for this important aspect of production and consumption and overall corporate philosophy, the various ways retailers can join the movement, the shifting challenges involved, and how some retailers have overcome them. Panelists were:
- Bruce A. Barteldt, Jr., AIA, LEEDAP BD+C, Partner | Chief Innovation Officer, Little
- Ken Nisch, Chairman, JGA
- Jennifer Guarino, CEO/Chair, ISAIC – Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center
- Melissa Baird, South African Communications Specialist, Life in Balance
The conversation discussed the growing awareness of the environmental impact of what we do as businesses. Within the sustainability areas of retail, companies and consumers alike are increasingly focusing on the cultural and social aspects. Many companies see these as business opportunities. North Face, for example, is looking at how to have circular commerce and thinking about the life cycle of products.
The panel discussed how one of six trends Shop! had previously identified as shaping retail’s future, Purpose-Driven, is fueling sustainability. Conscious consumerism is driving demand for green solutions regardless of cost. If retailers want today’s conscious consumers to shop in their stores, they will need to abide by principles of sustainability and ecological soundness. Many retailers and brands know this, but are reluctant to engage in sustainability because of the perceived cost, panelists note. This perception provides a teaching opportunity for designers and suppliers.
Clients, and the industry at large, need to be educated and guided to solutions that meet the sustainability demands of the consumer. It’s about guidance toward a smarter way of doing business. It’s about taking small steps and building upon that layer by layer. REI did not start out at Net Zero, panelists point out. The company took small steps over time and now is turning toward regenerative actions.
Companies must look at the journey and each step along the way. A realistic path starts with a vision and an attitude. Panelists encourage retailers, brands, and the companies that serve them to show that they care about the community. Since the pandemic has challenged people’s perceptions of essential things, the messaging needs to speak about essential things and the human value of our connections.
- To learn more, listen to the full podcast in the series archives.
- Please join us Nov. 18, when a new set of experts do a deep dive into Corporate Social Responsibility from a Brand/Retailer Perspective. To register, visit https://shopassociation.org/podcasts/sustainability-at-retail/
- If you are interested in participating on a panel, please contact Cynthia Hirsch, Creative Council Chair at Cynthia@codesignstrategies.com