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EDITORIAL From hubbub to a loud cry: how sustainability is now top of the agenda

The sound of the crowd – saying they want to save the planet

The power of sustainability in retail can no longer be overlooked. While there were murmurs of its importance back in 2020 and more of a general hubbub around it in 2021, now that things are getting back to ‘normal’, this is becoming a cry.

musicMagpie’s maiden results have shown that its fledgling device rental scheme, along with its core trade-in business, are proving to be a highly successful model in the ‘green age’, seeing profits up 10% on pre-pandemic levels. This is, in part, driven by a more circular approach to high value and luxury items among a consumer base that is now very much switched on to sustainability.

In fact, research out this week from Unfolded, a sustainable retail platform provider, shows that 76.6% of people said that the fashion industry needs to make rapid changes, while 88% of those questioned stated they would rather buy from brands who take a stance on global issues.

The company also goes on to finds that 71% of shoppers are also not planning to rush back to the high street, preferring instead to shop online. According to the survey, consumers are now also basing their purchase decisions on much more sustainable values than previously. UK consumers stated that the most important factors when choosing to purchase new clothes are; 86.1% want sustainable fabrics, 81.1% consider factory working conditions and 78.6% choose based on price.

Whereas in what could signal the end of the fast fashion trend, only 15.9% are concerned with fast delivery.

While Unfolded clearly has a bias towards wanting these kind of survey results, a glance elsewhere in the retail space shows that actually this isn’t just useful data that will help sell its sustainability platform, rather it is a pretty true reflection of what consumers actually want.

Well, what they actually want is super-fast online services, with same day delivery, all at a low cost, but with zero environmental or ethical impact – but it’s a start.

Driven by the consumer bent towards sustainability, especially in fashion, a new online service called Finsu has been launched, which aims to aggregate thousands of products from fashion brands to make sustainable shopping quicker and easier has captured the imaginations of shoppers. Since going live in December 2021, Finsu has already seen a 66% increase in daily unique visitors with traffic growing double-digits month-on-month.

Similarly, financial services company HELPFUL – along with partner Railsbank – has launched a sustainable digital wallet. Before you ask, payments is more environmentally taxing than you’d imagine. According to HELPFUL’s research, on average, every checkout payment produces 3.78g of CO2. Multiply this by the thousands of transactions consumers make each year and the CO2 produced is considerable.

The first HELPFUL wallets are live in Glasgow, launched for the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) pilot, in partnership with Mastercard and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF). Further wallets are being rolled out to partners within the food and drink, fashion, urban mobility, EV charging and mobile comms industries, to empower sustainable growth.

Maybe this will be enough to help retailers get over the non-environmental problem of carts being abandoned at checkout as shoppers who have done all the research and got as far as basketing goods, then go an buy them elsewhere – often on Amazon. Having a green checkout could well be the USP that many retailers need?

Even chocolate retailer Hotel Chocolat is reaping the rewards of going green. Part of its pledge to be more eco-concious an sustainable has helped it lever a 40% rise in sales globally – interestingly through a combination of online and store sales, perhaps an indicator of what retail in 2022 will look like for all?

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