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Sustainability in Retail: 3 Lessons From Big Brands To Apply to Your Small Shop


From recyclable packaging to eco-friendly products, sustainability is a top-of-mind priority for today’s consumers. So much so, that a recent survey found that nearly 80% of shoppers indicated they consider sustainability for at least some of their purchases, and 50% said that their decision to make sustainable purchases is directly related to concern for the planet.

With so many retailers like Target, Starbucks and Macy’s making headlines for their sustainability efforts nationwide, you may be wondering how you can implement your own eco-friendly practices on a smaller scale, within your own local shop.

For inspiration and lessons to be learned from the big brands, read on for a few examples that can be applied to your own small business:

  1. Showcase Sustainable Products
Last month Target introduced Target Zero,  an initiative aimed at helping consumers make more eco-friendly choices in their everyday shopping. The new Target Zero icon identifies products and packaging designed to be refillable, reusable, or compostable; that are made from recycled materials, or are made from materials that reduce the use of plastic. The Target Zero icon will be displayed on shelves in-store, and through a dedicated experience on Target’s e-commerce website. 

Even without launching a nationwide initiative, you too can help your eco-minded shoppers find the products that match their lifestyle within your own small shop. Borrow a page from Target’s book and make it easy to find sustainable products within your space: it can be as simple as grouping them together on shelving or in a window display, or highlighting products with simple marketing signage throughout the store.

  1. Switch to Recyclable Packaging
As a retailer leader, Starbucks has pledged a multi-decade commitment to becoming a “resource positive” business. From expanding plant-based menu options to ethically sourcing their coffee, tea and goods, Starbucks has several areas of focus that demonstrate their commitment to a sustainable future. Over the past few years, their team has also been on a journey to find a more sustainable cup, working towards the goal of developing 100% compostable and recyclable hot cups. 

As a small business owner, consider ways you too can make the switch to recyclable, more eco-friendly packaging. From carryout cups and utensils to shopping bags and boxes, there are so many retail-friendly, sustainable packaging options out there to help your business go green.

  1. Get Your Customers Involved

Despite being known for fast fashion, H&M also has an impressive global recycling program. First launched in 2013, the brand’s Garment Collecting program is the largest of its kind. With recycling bins available in H&M stores across the globe, guests are invited to bring unwanted clothes and textiles in any condition to a garment collecting box located within each store In exchange, guests receive a ‘thank you’ coupon to redeem on their next H&M purchase, and the store gives a second life to the unwanted clothing, through a partner that collects the items for rewear, reuse, or recycling.

You don’t have to run a global brand to make an impact like H&M. Consider ways your small business can implement a similar recycling program within your own community. Getting your customers involved and providing an extra incentive like a coupon is a great way to drive extra foot traffic to your store, while also doing good for the environment.


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