There are many things you can do to make your retail business more sustainable.

So many, in fact, that it may seem difficult to know where to start.

That’s why we’re here to help you take the first, most important steps in your sustainability. Read on for our top tips for retail, and then find out how you can continue your journey to Net Zero.

Supply chain

Making changes to your supply chain can make a huge impact on carbon emissions in retail. For a small business, scope 3 emissions, which include the supply chain, can make up 90% or more of your total emissions. Just think about the amount of energy used in the manufacturing of the goods you sell and transporting them to your outlet(s).

To make a positive change, first you need to understand the impact of your suppliers: Use your accounts software to identify the 5 suppliers you spend the most with. Then, get in touch with them to gain a full understanding of their sustainability journey – find out if they are using renewables and ask them what their levels of scope 1 and 2 emissions are.

If they’re already performing well – great! If they’re not, or they don’t have the data, ask them what their plan is to improve. In the meantime, look for alternative suppliers who have a good sustainability record. There are plenty of Net Zero suppliers available – just take a look at our recommendations.

Packaging

Every product you sell requires some form of packaging, both when it’s transported to you and when you sell it to customers.

Only 9% of the plastic generated globally is recycled, so switching to sustainable packaging is the first thing to do. But you still need to understand the full impact of the packaging you are using. For instance, plastic packaging may contribute to less overall emissions than glass packaging, as glass is much heavier and increases fuel consumption during transport and requires more energy to recycle.

Aim to reduce the total amount of packaging you use as well as ensuring its sustainability. Custom packaging suited to the size of your products can reduce the overall weight, which means less fuel to transport and less CO2 produced. 

Take a look at our suggestions for sustainable packaging suppliers and bubblewrap alternatives. And if your suppliers aren’t already using sustainable packaging, ask them to consider these other options too. 

You can also consider whether it’s possible to reuse your supplier packaging – you may be able to send it on to customers in the same packaging, which is a great way to reduce the total amount of packing materials used.

Lighting

Every shop needs good lighting so that when customers visit they can see products clearly. Even if you’re only selling goods online you still need good lighting for your staff to work and process orders. But when you’re open all day the amount of electricity used, and emissions created, is significant. 

Older-style bulbs leak energy as heat, so consider switching to LEDs. There is an upfront cost but LED lights use at least 75% less energy than incandescent lights and typically last 25 times longer. Just check out this handy cost-saving calculator to see how you’ll soon make your money back and more – it can be as little as a few months!

LED bulbs and panels also reduce eye strain and provide a much more pleasant working environment, so you’ll be improving your staff’s well-being as well as saving money.

Depending on the size of your business, “lighting as a service” may be a good option as it ensures you have the latest, well-maintained lighting technology and allows you to spread the cost over a long period rather than making a large upfront investment.

Decarbonise delivery

This requires a bit of help from your customers but it can make a big impact.

Every delivery you make has a carbon cost associated with it, and so does every return. It’s great for customers to be able to order a few items and then return the ones they don’t want, but this significantly increases the overall emissions generated.

It’s a fine balance between providing the best customer service and the best environmental credentials, but simply making customers aware of these costs can help them make more sustainable purchasing decisions. Many online stores are capable of displaying carbon footprint information at the checkout, so contact your website developer to see if this can be added to yours.

Click and Collect

Another way to help decarbonise delivery is to simply reduce the amount of it. There’s a good chance the couriers who deliver your goods to customers are using diesel vans which have a big impact on local pollution. With the engines constantly stopping and starting, diesel vans can create up to 17 times more pollution than cleaner alternatives.
Integrating with a click and collect provider allows your customers to pick up goods themselves directly from a delivery hub – it’s cheaper for them as it should reduce or eliminate delivery costs, and it helps you to reduce your overall carbon footprint.

Ready for more?

You should now have a good idea of where to begin your journey to increased sustainability. Or perhaps you’ve already started and are about to take the next steps?

Small99 Hero is designed to help you whatever stage you’re at. With personalised actions based on your business, you’ll always know what to do next. And our progress tracker lets you check how far you’ve come, as well as share your achievements so everyone can see where you are on the path to Net Zero.

Start using Small99 Hero for free today and keep your business on course for complete sustainability.

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