3 Part Series. Part 2: Green Retailers
In part 2 of our Conscious Consumer series, we look at 3 retailers who are flexing their green fingers in 3 very different ways. Take a look at the big Idea, the boutique and the big brand below.
BIG IDEA: ReTUNA
The Swedish City of Eskilstuna strives to be a role model in the environmental field and through its efforts to meet targets, came up with the idea for a mall that had ‘regular’ shops selling reused and upcycled products spanning clothes, books, furniture and electronics. Rather than open another recycling centre, Eskilstuna officials saw an opportunity to create a commercial entity and backed the plan to open the world’s first recycling mall. It’s owned by the local municipality but managed by local non-profit organisations. Locals donate goods to the mall and shop owners then repair or upcycle them and sell them on for a profit.
The model is a great example of the circular economy in action, in which used goods are put back into the supply chain rather than the bin. A recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, and the estimated cost to the UK economy of landfilling clothing and household textiles each year is approximately £82 million. Promoting this concept certainly helps to tackle those figures as well as provide a space to educate the public about environmental issues.
Ms Bergström, Director for the mall, says “Instead of talking about how much waste we have reduced, we talk about the turnover. If businesses can see that you can make money and also be sustainable, everybody will want to change.” The mall certainly has become international news with documentary filmmakers, journalists and curious tourists from around the world visiting the secondhand spectacular.
BOUTIQUE: KINDRED BLACK
Kindred Black sources and curates a wide range of products spanning clothing, jewelry, home and skincare items that must always fit at least one criteria; be second hand, use natural or recycled materials, be manufactured locally, be handmade or a combination of things.
The idea is to stop placing responsibility on the consumer and land it squarely on the shoulders of the business. Owner, Francis, explains “A perfect example: ‘Please recycle this bag’ printed on plastic bags. The consumer shouldn’t have to figure out what to do with the bag, the business should figure out a different way to package their goods and not give out plastic bags in the first place.” Francis was tired of drowning in a sea of plastic packaging waste, harsh fabric chemicals, with endless travels through countries with little regulation on manufacturing. Kindred Black decided to be part of the solution, even if it meant taking tough and expensive choices.
The beautiful Kindred Black website has resulted not only in being a place to connect shoppers with eco-friendly, ethical, and low-impact products but also special, one-of-a-kind items no-one else will have – what better way to express your individual style? To top it all off, they are part of the ‘1% for the Planet’ alliance where businesses commit 1% of their sales every year to environmental issues. Since the network started, $175 million dollars has been donated.
BIG BRAND: WALMART
It was Lee Scott, who ran Walmart from 2000 to 2009, who instilled a huge sense of responsibility to the environment into the company. After the birth of his Granddaughter, and after Walmart’s widely praised response to Hurricane Katrina, he had an epiphany in which he challenged his employees: “What if we used our size and resources to make this country and this earth an even better place for all of us: customers, associates, our children and generations unborn?”
Knowing that although his consumers, particularly millenials and Gen Z, were motivated by sustainable credentials, but understanding they didn’t always want, or have the means, to pay extra, he decided to put the onus on suppliers. He startled many by implementing a strict policy to cut ties with any manufacturers using processes contributing vast carbon emissions. Realising there was no set standard for what constituted a sustainable product or business to judge suppliers and goods by, Walmart established the Sustainability Consortium to create a data-driven index of sustainability. It used the standards to push back on retailers not making the grade and make them seek out similar low-cost, sustainable innovations in their operations without having to alter there price tags.
The company has also set itself some serious green targets. It has committed to using 50% renewable energy in its buildings by 2025 meaning it will increase the number of on-site solar energy installments to over 500 locations, a category in which it’s already a leading company. Their recent work to double fleet efficiency has also had huge results, both saving the company a billion dollars and pulling 650,000 metrics tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.