Beyond Shopping Bags: Navigating Sustainable Practices in Retail

Shopping at a store in 2024, you may find alternative options to plastic bags for carrying your purchases home. The store is offering reusable bag options, offering small rewards for not using a bag, or has cut out plastic bag use entirely. These practices are becoming increasingly common in recent years.

In today’s fast-paced world, sustainability has become a buzzword across industries, and the retail sector is no exception. As consumers increasingly prioritize eco-friendly choices, retailers are trying new approaches to align their operations with more sustainable practices. In this blog post, we explore how some retailers are beginning to make big changes to their daily operations to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce waste, and use technology as a resource for positive change.

Global Economy and Sustainability

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In 2024, global retail sales are expected to grow 6.7% in U.S. dollars. Online sales are also predicted to make substantial growth. The Future of Commerce explains analysts are estimating ecommerce sales in the U.S. will grow from the $1 trillion gained in 2022 to $1.7 trillion in 2027.

With this growth, some retail businesses may still be skeptical about adopting more sustainable places into their retail models. However, some big retail names have already begun to take action. Walmart, for example, has made a net-zero commitment by 2040. IKEA also has created a target to make all its products using only renewable and recyclable materials by 2030. These are just a few retailers changing their everyday operations to accommodate more sustainable and socially responsible ideals.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

Regarding sustainability in retail, carbon footprint might be one of the first words to come to mind. Electricity, heating, making the materials, and shipping all leave behind a carbon footprint. This is one of the key challenges for retailers to address regarding environmental concerns in the industry.

According to a recent study done by the Pew Research Center surveying 9,000 people, approximately three out of four people said climate change is hurting people in the U.S. With this becoming an increasing concern for many, many retailers are now looking for new ways to offset their carbon footprints.
Container truck in ship port for business Logistics and transportation of Container Cargo ship and Cargo plane with working crane bridge in shipyard at sunrise, logistic import export and transport industry background.
One Forbes article from 2023 reported that sustainable investments have now reached $4 trillion. Within this, actions taken towards decarbonization have also increased. This includes adjusting their supply chains, using data analytics to make better-informed decisions, placing a greater emphasis on recycling, minimizing energy consumption with more energy-efficient systems, and reducing waste by making changes to their products.

Resale Revolution

The resale market is also booming. This is another way retailers are recognizing the potential for sustainable growth. Some retailers are now taking a more sustainable approach by adding options for buying pre-owned goods, such as introducing marketplaces or buy-back options. Retail models continue adding mainline, outlet, and resale models to their routines. Additionally, many of these resale options are gaining a greater appeal not just for their sustainability in practice but also for their reduced price compared to other new products.

One more recent example of a large company introducing resale options is Lululemon’s “Like New” program. This has allowed the store to reduce emissions by allowing gently worn clothing items to be resold at a cheaper price. In exchange for their gently used products, customers are also given e-gift cards that can be used on their website. The amount they receive depends on the product being exchanged.

Technology as a Solution

Electronic receipt on a phone that is leaning on a laptop computer.NCR Counterpoint stands at the forefront of retail technology, offering a comprehensive solution that not only streamlines operations but also contributes to sustainable retail practices. With its advanced inventory management capabilities, Counterpoint allows retailers to optimize stock levels, reducing excess inventory and minimizing waste. The system’s robust reporting features provide insights into product performance, enabling informed decisions on stocking high-demand items. Additionally, Counterpoint’s integrated point-of-sale system enhances transaction efficiency, reducing paper usage and energy consumption. By leveraging NCR Counterpoint, retailers can embrace sustainability in their operations, promoting a greener and more efficient approach to business.

From efforts to reduce carbon footprints to a greater emphasis on preowned goods, many big retail businesses are already making changes toward a more sustainable future. The market is now putting a greater priority on more eco-friendly practices, and so are the consumers. Luckily, with the technology today, there are some useful tools to help businesses complete these goals while continuing to grow their sales. Eco-friendly retail practices are becoming more common and may be one of the leaders in a more sustainable and profitable future.