5 Forces Impacting Retail Sustainability

by | Sep 29, 2014

rozembajgier, mike, stericycleEvolving technology, changing supply chain models and consumers empowered with information on retailers’ business practices are each impacting retail and changing long-established standards in the industry.

As more favorable economic conditions slowly return, retailers envision a prosperous and profitable future but must manage growth while accounting for these and other disruptive forces to maintain margins and improve operations.

The five forces impacting retail each carry unique pressures and require careful consideration from the C-suite before a sustainability strategy can be mapped out. These forces are:

1)    Technology

2)    Big data

3)    Demographics

4)    New consumption patterns

5)    Resource constraints

All of these trends converge in one area of business: sustainability. While sustainability plans may vary slightly in different retailers depending on size, number of locations and regulatory oversight, there’s no denying that these factors affect every retailer in some significant ways.

Sustainability expectations

How the future of retail will be shaped by these five forces is a corporate imperative for major retail brands in the US and worldwide. The future of retail is also the theme behind the upcoming Retail Sustainability Conference sponsored by RILA this week (Sept. 29-Oct. 2).

The rapid evolution in each of the five forces can hamper, stall or paralyze retailers’ efforts to build or recreate a sustainability strategy. As with any fast-moving business phenomenon, there are some who are content to sit on the sidelines while others blaze a trail for the industry. Yet companies can little afford this passive approach as public pressures, always a foundation of sustainable business practices, haven’t abated. One recent study from an independent firm found 93 percent of US consumers expect companies to do more than just make money, but only 16 percent believe these companies have actually made a positive impact.

Further, the 2013 Global CSR RepTrack 100 report found that 73 percent of global consumers are willing to recommend companies that are perceived to be delivering on their corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs.

Partnering for the future

Because of these myriad challenges and rising consumer expectations, retailers must take an inside-out view of their sustainability strategy. In other words, whereas in the past sustainability plans may have been created within a company’s four walls, today’s environment requires companies to engage with external partners in order to successfully build and manage sustainability.

Here are a few ways experts from a leading environmental solutions provider can assist retailers with the five forces shaping the industry:

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