Dufaylite paper bags for sustainable retail
Repairing clothes for sustainable retail

How to move to sustainable retail design


Environmental sustainability has been a hot topic for some time now – mostly aimed at changing consumer behaviour. It’s great that people are recycling more and that they’re paying attention to environmental and ethical issues, but we’re strong believers in the idea that industry needs to lead this charge.

People shouldn’t have to make the choice between non-recyclable packaging or otherwise; it’s up to us to make sure that whatever goes out to customers doesn’t stay in landfill.

We recently wrote about making construction more environmentally friendly, as well as the environmental impact of packaging, so it’s time to discuss how retail outlets can do their part to bring about a sustainable, healthy future.

Reducing waste should be a guiding principle

Waste reduction for goods means reducing waste before packaging, during packaging & transit, and post-sale. But the principles of reducing waste (the drummed-in ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’) should be a guiding principle for business operations generally.

There’s a reason the phrase is in that order - it’s in order of importance: reducing reliance on wasteful materials in the first place cuts out the other two steps.

Think about how much material is used temporarily for the purposes of retail outlets – from transport to display. An astounding amount of that material ends up in landfill, and will stay in landfill for hundreds of thousands of years. Now, you could be positive and think of it as long term marketing, or you could see every bit of non-biodegradable waste as a potential PR nightmare. 

As such, regular audits and ad-hoc assessments of waste improvement are a great way to get green fast.

Use SKA accreditation criteria

An SKA rating is ‘an environmental assessment method, benchmark, and standard for non-domestic fit-outs’ operated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It’s a stringent set of criteria and ongoing assessments to help improve and maintain a retail outlet’s environmental impact.

The cosmetics brand, Lush, uses SKA accreditation for all their new fitouts and it means that they’re able to measure, monitor, and improve their environmental impact at each point in their growth. This is not only useful from a brand positioning perspective, but helps the environment – while making long-term financial savings.

Offer repair and maintenance services for your products

Since 2018, H&M have offered a ‘repair & remake’ service for customers of their Hammersmith branch. As yet, it’s still just the Hammersmith branch that offers this service, but hopefully it’ll be rolled out business-wide when people start to learn about it. 

The waste from the clothing industry is enormous, and having the opportunity to have your clothes mended is an exciting way to extend the life of most clothes – even for reselling!

A similar thing has cropped up in the last few years with Repair Cafés – which, through repairing items, stopped an estimated 420,000kg of waste being sent to landfill.

Use your space to provide positive messaging

In a non-pandemic world, millions of people walk through retail outlets on a daily basis. That amount of footfall gives huge opportunities to provide positive messaging around environmental and social issues for very little cost.

Simply including signs near the checkout tills that display guides on recycling, recyclability, reducing waste, where to find resources, guides for greener living, and so on, are all great ways to make a really positive impact.

Use recycled & recyclable materials

A great way to use recycled materials for retail is to have cabinetry and furniture custom made using reclaimed, organic materials such as wood and stone. In the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively inexpensive to pay capable tradespeople to whip up something that looks beautiful, and also helps to extend the life of any wood already in use.

Alternatively, if you can’t find reclaimed wood, opting for FSC-certified wood ensures that you’re buying from environmentally responsible suppliers. A beneficial byproduct of using local, upcycled or custom furniture is that each of your retail outlets can be aesthetically unique – even within a house style.

Opting for eco-friendly paints and treatments also helps to ensure that you’re not accidentally creating environmentally hazardous materials.
For signage and other visual displays, get our high strength, low lead time displays made from paper honeycomb. They’re made from recycled paper and are 100% recyclable.

We’re serious about the environment, and we’re serious about providing quality products to help businesses achieve functional excellence while being eco friendly. If you have any questions about our Ultra Board displays, get in touch – we’re always glad to help.

25 January 2021

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