Trust, engagement, authenticity, communication and understanding customers are the key issues for retailers as they move towards greater sustainability, according to a panel at the World Retail Congress this morning.
David Shriver, former special adviser to the chief executive at Carrefour, said: “As things stand, it’s not just about retailers not doing bad, it’s about actively doing good.”
He added that central to making this a reality is the need for retailers to embrace new communciation channels, such as YouTube, rather than relying on traditional methods of disseminating information. Woolworths South Africa managing director of retail Andrew Jennings agreed, noting that sustainability is not “an appendage – it’s a way of doing business”.
Both Jennings and Tesco corporate and legal affairs director Lucy Neville-Rolfe stressed that the world’s greenest retailers are those that have sustainability as an integral part of what they do, rather than opting for a pick and mix approach.
Following the results of a survey presented at the session by Guy Champniss, head of intelliegence unit at Havas Media, in which he showed that not all consumers are naturally inclined to adopt sustainable behaviours, Neville-Rolfe said that motivation and shopper incentives were essential if retailers are to lower their environmental impact. Citing as an example the way in which plastic bag usage has been halved at Tesco over the past two years, she said that this had been achieved by offering shoppers “Club Card” points in return for using their own bags. Retailers need to encourage and help customers to change their behaviour, she said.
The panel was also united in urging retailers to be consistent in the message that they deliver to shoppers. “If you’re not consistent, [sustainability] messages have a real potential to backfire,” said Champniss.