Therefore, leading companies are opting for a two-pronged mandate —
Reducing the levels of resources used
Adopting innovative solutions to secure the quantity and quality of materials
needed to manufacture and operate
Consumers are becoming increasingly attuned to sustainability issues and demanding retailers to keep pace with their changing expectations. Most consumers in India are in the early stages of thinking of sustainability as a high-cost option or a “luxury” that “normal people” cannot afford. Retailers, therefore, assume an important role in promoting the accessibility of sustainable products to all consumers. Further, consumers are smarter, better informed and more discerning than before. In today’s economic climate, consumers want to understand why a price premium exists so they can make an educated choice on which products best fit their emotional, ethical and functional needs.
At present, the three major sustainability issues facing retailers are -
Climate change - The measurement of retailers’ carbon footprints and those of their products is seen as an important step in enabling retailers to understand and mitigate their impacts on climate change. Although the carbon footprint labeling of individual products by selected large retailers is a step forward, the initiative is at a relatively early stage and to date lacks the critical mass and public awareness to drive significant changes in consumer behaviour.
Waste - This issue is at the top of the agenda for both consumers and retailers. There is a widespread call for reducing the overall amount of packaging, more guidance on recycling and more education and emphasis on re-use. This area needs co-ordination and leadership, ideally from the industry, working closely with local authorities and other experts.
Supply chain - Ensuring security of supply is considered to be a goal which can be compatible with social compliance and something that retailers can work on together. Responsible procurement brings with it many issues for retailers and these are perceived to become more pressing as environmental pressures become increasingly felt. Collaborative efforts seem to be the most effective response to many of these issues in terms of increasing the impact and reassuring consumers.