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Retail Group's First Sustainability Report Puts Green Lens on Industry 2012-01-31 - No Comments

Retailers’ environmental efforts have been detailed by the Retail Industry Leaders Association in its first report on sustainability practices among some of the largest retail companies in the United States.

RILA's 2012 Retail Sustainability Report, released last week, offers an interesting look at the evolving philosophy on sustainability within an industry that has the largest energy bills and the second largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the commercial sector of the U.S. economy, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many of the challenges are rooted in the fact that the retail industry relies on so many internal and external stakeholders - landlords, manufacturers, suppliers, transport companies, local governments, employees, customers, the communities surrounding stores and social and environmental advocates.

Retailers need to work well with all of them to succeed in terms of business and sustainability. Increasingly, according to the report, retailers are recognizing that need and acting upon it. The industry also is beginning to realize that sustainability and business success are entwined.

RILA's report drew from 30 corporate sustainability reports and in-depth interviews with representatives for 20 firms including grocers, department stores, apparel companies, and DIY and big box retailers.

The report identified four key trends and found that leading retailers are:

  1. Working with stakeholders across sectors to achieve sustainability goals.
  2. Turning from sustainability as a cost and risk reduction measure to an opportunity for business growth.
  3. Developing systems for continuous improvement by pulling together controls, measurement and management tools and IT systems.
  4. Fostering transparency in operations and in the supply chain.

The report also offered four predictions on the growth of sustainability within the industry and said that in five to ten years:

  1. Sustainability will become integrated into the business.
  2. The drive to manage supply chain impacts will transform retailer-supplier relationships.
  3. Industry collaboration will become the standard.
  4. Business models will evolve as consumption habits change.

Customer expectations for corporate social responsibility also will push retailers accelerate their efforts.

The report is available here.

RILA counts more than 200 retail companies, product manufacturers and service suppliers among its members. They represent some $1.5 trillion in annual sales and more than 100,000 stores.

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