Half a decade ago, environmentalists and experts predicted that the future will be green. This prediction has started becoming a reality. Retailers across global economies are carving a niche for themselves by adopting eco-friendly practices and producing products that are environment friendly. Today, everyone is concerned about preventing environmental degradation. Retailers have sensed the need for green retailing and now most of the Indian retailers are stepping into this new avenue. Previously, green retailing was perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’ phenomenon. But lately, producers and consumers have realised that it is a ‘must-have’ phenomenon as environmental protection has become a priority. Green Retailers Need Green Customers
Green retail involves both supply and demand.
* Retailers want to be greener operationally, to sell more green merchandise, and to gain a commercial advantage by being green. * Customers often want to be green(er) and do their best for animal welfare, the environment etc and their families (or many want this). But they are not expert, they can be cynical about what might be considered as greenwash, and even those who want to do the best need better information to make sensible decisions. But It's a Network Out There
If retailers are to cut their carbon footprints, be more ethical and green(er), they need to intervene at all stages of the product lifecycle: * their suppliers and competitors in order that everyone is using greener processes and there is no commercial disadvantage in doing so; * the retailer's own logistics, sales operations and customer delivery (if any) to reduce the carbon footprint, reduce energy and resource costs, and be greener; * their own customers so they understand what the retailer is doing and how customers can make reasoned choices about merchandise, buy food produced under more humane conditions or garments and stationery produced in less damaging ways. This means that customers need information; retailers probably have to be involved in one or more of the accreditation schemes. Customers need to know, also, what the different schemes, like Red Tractor, Marine Stewardship, Carbon Trust, organic and free range actually mean. Yes But, People are Different
The problem is that retailers cannot go much faster than their customers. Some shoppers want 100% Fairtrade or organic but the majority are far more nuanced. They will buy: some goods with no apparent green features, others that must be produced humanely, and other goods where they want to buy cheaply but look for some justification that it is OK (greenish) through a certification label, eg Red Tractor. Although most customers may claim to be concerned about retail practices and the environment this does not affect everyone's shopping habits every time. Retailers are Doing Something
Since about 2008, all the major retailers have had an environmental or ethical strategy dealing with their operational costs and systems, informing customers and trying to improve their suppliers. These plans are not broadbrush approaches but involve detailed changes to operations and procedures and strict timetables. In the UK the best known is probably Marks & Spencer which has a £200m "eco-plan" ("Plan A", "There is no Plan B") to make it carbon neutral in five years. M&S said this was its contribution to the battle against climate change. By 2012 it expected to be carbon neutral, send no waste to landfill and "set new standards in ethical trading". It has cut waste by 35%, all waste is recycled and goes to anaerobic digesters. The Co-op Group, is probably the prime mover of all retail environmentalists. It won the Business Commitment to the Environment award after reducing its carbon emissions by 86 per cent, and the Environment Leadership Award from Business in the Community. Tesco's strategy involves a £100 million fund for investment in sustainable environmental...