Retail trends show sustainability is the key to the future. Here’s what you can do to meet changing consumer demands and get ahead of your competition.
The conscious and purpose-driven consumer has been demanding more from retailers in recent years.
Mounting evidence shows that future retail trends will be centred around responsible consumerism and that brands must act now to gain a competitive edge.
In this article, we share what retailers and brands can do to meet changing consumer demands for more eco-friendly, socially responsible, and sustainable retail practices.
It’s a fact that consumers are now more likely than ever to buy from, invest in, and work for clean, green, and sustainable businesses.
While interest in consumer sustainability has been trending for a while, recent studies show that consumers are now doing much more than talking about sustainability and are actively shifting their behaviour to match their beliefs.
Conscious consumers are making their intentions clear. They want hard evidence of how retail brands are prioritising purpose over profit. And their numbers are growing every year.
For businesses, this means that sustainability must be more than an add-on benefit or a nice-to-have feature. The overall appeal of a brand or retailer is now closely tied to how they “walk the walk'' when it comes to green and ethical initiatives.
According to a comprehensive global study by IBM, the average consumer in 2022 is more likely to:
One of the biggest concerns for businesses is that consumers will vote with their wallets and boycott or withdraw support from brands that ignore these trends.
"Making ethical choices is part of the modern business model. Consumers are drawn to retailers that make a positive social and environmental impact throughout their supply chain and across all stakeholders - and they make this known at the check-out."
- Marnix Poot, Business Development and Partnerships, etika
Retailers need to keep pace and understand what it means to be an ethical business. Ultimately, they have to incorporate sustainable practices that go beyond tokenism and greenwashing and demonstrate a true commitment to the environment and social responsibility.
Conscious consumers look beyond fashion fads, peer pressure, and price points, to carefully examine the way a product is made and marketed. Specifically:
Interest in purpose-driven brands has ramped up since the pandemic, with shoppers much less willing to gamble the environment and their health on polluting, degrading, or harmful products.
Businesses that act now will have the advantage of building stronger relationships with purpose-led buyers, especially if they take a holistic, ESG-driven approach (more on that below!).
ESG stands for “Environmental, Social and Governance” and refers to a company’s approach to a wide range of factors that impact people and the planet.
For retailers, this means thinking about how sustainability could be improved across the business. As a 2021 report by EY suggests, winning customers and creating long-term value will depend on companies reviewing everything – “from sourcing and packaging to operations, footprint and investments.”
Retailers should take a strategic approach and adapt in ways that matter most to their customers.
There are several key areas where consumers want to see change, according to research:
“Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in the impacts of business to wider society and the environment. Proactive businesses today have a great opportunity to align with consumers to improve social and environmental conditions in an exponential way."
- Marnix Poot, Business Development and Partnerships Manager at etika.
It’s not enough to pay lip service to sustainability. Having concrete evidence of social and environmental responsibility is what defines ethical businesses today.
So, what strategies can you use in your business to move forward and embrace the demand for ethical, sustainable retail?
At etika, we’re wired for positive social impact, and social responsibility is part of our DNA. We firmly believe that being fair and responsible is more important than profit, by making transparent, affordable finance accessible.