Customers are paying greater attention to their carbon footprint. Individuals want to ensure that, through each of their decisions and actions, they are having a positive influence on the environment. This means changing habits that have long-been established and accepted as normal.
For retailers, this transition toward greater ecological concern is significant. Whereas at one time customers sought largely to seek out brands that echoed their own personal style or sense of quality, now customers are voting with their wallets, seeking to support businesses that complement their moral stances. This means that retailers, in 2024, must match the sustainability efforts of their customers if they ever wish to grow their business and retain customers who continue to support them. Here’s how this can be done.
One of the most common and public criticisms of a modern retail business involves the waste it produces. Interestingly, it is not always the waste that a business might produce itself but that with which it hands to customers, such as single-use plastic bags and till receipts. This is because these disposable items force customers to dispose of them, shifting the sense of guilt to the consumer.
As such, retail businesses would do exceedingly well to minimise the potential waste handed to a customer. Aside from limiting the amount of product packaging and transactional items given to each customer, retailers would do well to ensure that those given are as sustainable as possible, being made out of biodegradable alternatives to plastics, for example.
The way a shop space is designed communicates with customers the ethical preferences and values of a brand. If shop shelving and display furniture is sourced well, being locally manufactured or made from sustainable materials, it tells customers that the retail has positive environmental considerations. This happens visually too, even without retailers needing to describe their environmental efforts through marketing or branding.
High streets are, as a result becoming more natural in their appearance, moving away from the modern and industrial aesthetics. Natural lighting is overshadowing artificial alternatives, wood is replacing plastic, and paper is being replaced by the digital.
While some have concerns regarding what the public criticises as greenwashing, retailers who pursue genuinely efforted means of improving their sustainability should not hesitate to advertise their efforts. This can be done through posters and advertising, with messages describing the exact efforts and carbon reductions being enacted by businesses, but it can also be done through visual styles. Apple famously advertises the exact carbon effects of their individual shop spaces in store, with the majority of them being entirely carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
Green is, of course, the colour used to epitomise environmental efforts, which is why many high street retailers have effectively incorporated it into their branding. Other visual assets, such as images of nature or biophilic designs can promote the idea of green branding too, helping customers to associate a retailer with positive sustainability efforts.