Retailers worldwide have scaled up their sustainability efforts and now rely on sophisticated software to hone their strategies.

Gone are the days when sustainability measures were limited to offering biodegradable plastic bags or energy-efficient lighting.

Retailers worldwide have scaled up their sustainability efforts significantly and now rely on sophisticated software to review their activities and hone their strategies.

There are several reasons retailers invest in such systems - and, of course, in sustainability measures. While some might be pretty obvious, it is necessary to dig a bit deeper for others.

First of all, being sustainable helps retailers convey an environmentally friendly image and present themselves as ‘green’. Such efforts very often also help drive down costs.

A bit less obvious – to shoppers at least – is the topic of compliance and a greater demand for non-financial data reporting which encourages companies to be more transparent on their sustainability measures.

Last but not least, attracting money from investors is another important factor driving many companies into action on sustainability.

Carbon calculation

The world’s largest retailer is treating sustainability as a high priority. Walmart showcases several thousand products in its online shop by flagging them with a so-called Sustainability Leaders Badge.

Together with the Sustainability Consortium, the retailer has developed an index which takes into account supply chain, product life-cycles, CO2 emissions and energy and water consumption, as well as labour conditions in the manufacturing countries.

FMCGs are also augmenting their sustainability efforts. French manufacturer Danone has rolled out a carbon calculation and management system which
makes the full life-cycle carbon emissions of every aspect of each of Danone’s 35,000 products readily available.

Shoppers are increasingly interested in obtaining detailed information on product sustainability, but are at the same time highly confused by a plethora of different labels that promise different things and are hard to compare.

Standardisation, which has been suggested by the European Commission, might provide shoppers with the necessary orientation. It can also help retailers
and manufacturers that wish to highlight their environmental performance save costs.

  • Sarah Herrlein, senior retail technology analyst, Planet Retail