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UK retailers shut up shop – online and offline – and head to the climate strikes

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A small but significant number of retailers and brands have today closed their UK online stores and shops and headed to take part in today’s climate strikes.

They join millions around the world expected to take part in the Global Climate Strike, which calls for urgent action to avoid the worst effects of climate change. This Friday’s strikes fall ahead of the UN’s Climate Action Summit on September 23 and are seen as an important time to put pressure on governments to act. 

Dorset-based Lush Cosmetics and winter sports retailer Burton, have closed their shops and online websites for the ay, while sparkling water brand SodaStream has closed its head office and ecommerce sites around the world. All are encouraging their staff to take part in today’s climate strikes instead. Meanwhile, Patagonia is highlighting local marches on its website and redirecting shoppers towards their nearest event. Pukka Herbs, Allbirds, 7th Generation and Ben & Jerry’s are also taking action. 

A notice on a holding page on Lush’s website says that the retailer is “closed due to an emergency – the climate emergency.” It says that it is interrupting business as usual in order to take part in the event. “There can be no call stronger than our children sincerely asking us to do the right thing,” it says. “For this reason, Lush will stop our business-as-usual on September 20 for the strike. Our tills will switch off, our shops will shut, our website will go onto a low energy holding page and our factories will come to a standstill. We hear our children and we stand with them.”

Burton’s home page says it’s “closed for business, open for action” adding, “let’s protect our playground.” The page then redirects to the Global Climate Strike website.

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Eyal Shohat, chief executive of SodaStream, which has closed its head office in Israel and ecommerce sites including its UK site, said: “The climate crisis is an emergency and can no longer be ignored. It is our responsibility as leaders to listen to the voices of the young generation and act now. Caring for the planet is at the core of our company, and we have to walk the talk – even at a price.”

Nadine Singler, marketing director for SodaStream UK, said: “Since launching in Britain over 100 years ago, SodaStream has continued to challenge convention and stand up for what it believes is right. As a business that promotes sustainability and helps to reduce single-use plastic waste, we’re actively supporting this week’s Global Climate Strike – and empowering our employees to take action.”

Joey Zwillinger, co-CEO and co-founder of sustainable footwear brand Allbirds, which is closing its shops and offices in Europe and the US for part of the day – its Long Acre, London shop opens at 1pm today – said, “The environment is one of our most important stakeholders, and as we grow in size and influence, we have an opportunity — a responsibility — to use our voice to speak out against inaction in the face of dire consequences of climate change.”

He continued: “This is a moment to demand action from our leaders in ensuring there is a healthy planet for future generations.”

It’s not just small retailers who are taking action: the UK’s largest retailer, Amazon, yesterday pledged to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2040 and to shift to 100% renewable energy by 2030. It has also ordered more than 100,000 electric delivery vehicles in what it says is the largest order ever, and invested more than $100m in reforestation projects around the world. 

The announcement came as Amazon became the first signatory to The Climate Pledge, an organisation it has co-founded with Global Optimism

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said: “We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference. If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon—which delivers more than 10 billion items a year—can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can. I’ve been talking with other CEOs of global companies, and I’m finding a lot of interest in joining the pledge. Large companies signing The Climate Pledge will send an important signal to the market that it’s time to invest in the products and services the signatories will need to meet their commitments.”

Our view: There will inevitably be an element of marketing strategy involved in all of these companies’ decisions to support climate action. But there’s also real strategy about how retailers can help to protect the future of the planet. By taking part and forgoing a day’s turnover, all are aligning themselves with the millions of consumers – especially among younger generations – who feel passionately about today’s strikes. At the same time they’re showcasing their own green credentials. That’s likely to add a value to their brand that will more than compensate, long-term, for the sales that they don’t make today.

It’s also a useful reminder to retail brands that emerging generations of consumers – and their parents and grandparents – want to make a difference in what they buy and how they buy it. Those that can meet appetites to reduce plastic, to reuse and recycle, while using less energy and raw materials, will be well-placed in this market – and help to reshape the world for a more sustainable future. 

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