Offer greener choices

Sourcing sustainable products is the most important change you can make. This is where 75% of all retailers’ emissions (that’s your carbon footprint) come from (British Retail Consortium Climate Action Road Map).
Half the UK’s true carbon footprint is created abroad from the creation of imported goods and international travel. (World Wildlife Fund)

How it helps you

The more you can differentiate the products you sell by stocking local products then you will attract more customers who want to support their local community and usually the transportation costs will be lower for these products. Providing greener choices for your customers and highlighting these in your shop will automatically let the customer know you want to help them to be more sustainable.

ACTION: Offer your customers more sustainable products to buy

Look at the existing products that you sell and see if there are more sustainable options, which you can make available to your customers.
These can be products that are:

  • Made from recycled/recyclable materials
  • Certified to be sustainable (e.g. Global Organic Textile Standard or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified)
  • Innovative and bespoke (e.g. wooden toothbrushes, shampoo bars)
  • Packaged with minimal or no plastic that can be sold loose (e.g. nails in a DIY shop)
  • Products which help your customers to live more sustainably e.g. compost bins, chemical free versions of products, eco food wraps
  • Easily reused or recycled.

To find these products, start by asking your suppliers what they have available that fits these criteria. Research online and there could be online suppliers who would like to have their products in shops as well as well as selling direct to consumers – you will never know if you don’t ask

What others are doing

In 2018, Unilever’s 28 Sustainable Living Brands grew 69% faster than the rest of their business. These brands also delivered 75% of the business’ overall growth, proving that consumers are favouring sustainable alternatives.

Since 2007, Lush has sold over 38 million naked shampoo bars globally, saving over 90 million plastic shampoo bottles. When purchased online, they are placed ‘naked’ directly into shipping parcels. All in all, these steps have helped Lush reduce costs associated with transport, storage space, and packaging material.

Boston Tea Party was the first coffee shop chain in the UK to ban single-use coffee cups (only 0.25% each year are recycled). Customers have three options: bring, buy, or loan a reusable cup. Since 2018, they have stopped 585,000+ cups going to landfill and save almost 10p per sale on the cost of a cup and lid, which they donate to local community projects.

ACTION: Buy local where you can

Stocking products made close to home enables you to support the local economy and community. Post-Covid, this will be crucial for helping the UK and our industries build back better and usually is a more environmentally friendly option, as locally made products do not need to travel as far to reach your shop.

If you are a food retailer, choose seasonal products when buying local. Offer recipe cards to your customers that provide inspiration for how to cook seasonal produce that they may be less familiar with to encourage their purchase.
Search online, including on social media, and at local markets or food fairs for small, local producers who you could stock and collaborate with.

Talk to your local chamber of commerce and business network groups to find suppliers and companies that may be suitable.

Think beyond your products and consider how you could source locally for anything else you need (e.g., shop fittings, packaging, repair services, marketing help).

What others are doing

Hive is an online marketplace that gives local booksellers the opportunity to be seen and sold online. Shoppers too are guaranteed that their next book purchase will go some way to supporting independent bookshops (which they can even choose), preventing any more from shutting down on UK high streets. it’s a win for all.

ACTION: Choose planet friendly deliveries

Encourage your suppliers to make deliveries in an environmentally friendly way – via freight rather than by car or aeroplane.

If offering home delivery, do so locally via bike (you can even get electric ones to make this quicker), or if further afield, by electric vehicle. There are green delivery providers that could help you set this up.

What others are doing

Oatly, the global provider of oat-based products, are committed to transporting their products in the most eco-friendly way possible. Whether it’s sending products by boat to Asia, electric trucks across the Nordic region, or a mix of trains and trucks across Europe, they’re doing the best they can to avoid the use of air travel. They even include the carbon footprint of each product on their packaging to encourage consumers to make the switch from cow’s milk.

Zedify offer zero emission delivery services in communities across the UK’s cities. They use electric cargo bikes and hyperlocal micro hubs to help reduce congestion and pollution, making urban areas better places to live and work

ACTION: Ask before you print receipts

Ask your till provider if you can email receipts to customers instead of printing them (according to research, 60% of UK shoppers want the option to refuse a paper receipt anyway). Then, ask your customers’ permission to send them helpful offers at the same time and build your customer database.

Encourage your customers to make payments by card instead of with cash. They have likely already grown accustomed to this in response to Covid, and what’s more, it’s a greener payment option.

According to research conducted by Flux, around 11.2 billion receipts are printed in the UK alone each year — and 9.9 billion of these go unused. That’s the equivalent of 53,000 trees going straight into the bin, as well as all of the wasted energy that’s used to produce the paper.

Where to find out more

Join the Beat the Receipt pledge, https://www.beatthereceipt.com, a commitment to make paper receipts optional in-store by 2023.

ACTION : Restore Nature

A recent study found that the UK’s town and city gardens produce the vast majority of food for pollinators in urban areas – accounting for 85 per cent. Bees are vital to pollinate our growing food

We need to restore the damage we have being doing to our natural environment and there are lots of ways that you can help your customers to do this:

  • Sell versions of chemical free products
  • Avoid selling products which support deforestation such as palm oil and soya, or make sure that you sell sustainable versions of these
  • Help customers to grow veg and plants at home; every little bit helps

As a retailer why not get involved in local planting schemes to create wild spaces in your community and plant outside your shop with green plants. Be innovative and lead by example to inspire others to make a difference and getting your team involved as well.

What others are doing

Cooper King Distillery produced the first carbon negative gin – 1 square metre of native broadleaf UK woodland is planted for every bottle of gin sold. They have planted over 15,000 square metres of managed woodland so far, offsetting approximately 250,000kg of CO2 over the 50 year lifespan of the trees and adding to the biodiversity of our landscape.

M&S designed their Cheshire Oaks shop to encourage biodiversity and it has a 300m2 green wall containing 30 species of plants as well as wildlife planting and 88 individual plant species on site as well as 17 different bird species, insect houses and worked with local schools on the project.

Try Another Principle

  1. Save energy and switch to renewables
  2. Minimise packaging
  3. Reduce, reuse and recycle
  4. Offer greener choices
  5. Work together
  6. Share what you learn

Subscribe to our