Retail and sustainability post-Covid: Mother Nature Speaks

a phone with the recycling symbol on it inside a canvas bag
*Collaborative Post

With talks of a second wave, the Coronavirus pandemic is not quite over yet. And even when it finally is, it’s effects are sure to be long-lasting. In terms of the on-going environmental conversation, the pandemic has perhaps been a ‘good’ thing. The world coming to a standstill for three months opened people’s eyes to just how much damage day-to-day life is having on our planet, and many are speculating that 2020 has been Mother Nature’s way of telling humans to show her more love and respect.

If so, we wish she’d have found a different way to let us know… However, she has certainly got the world’s attention. The widely-reported CO2 emission drops in China (25% year-on-year) and rare blue skies in the Indian capital Delhi have got people talking and coming to a realisation.

Retail experts Green Room Design has been considering how these positive shifts in the environment will likely force some people into more conscientious buying patterns, and how brands can meet new expectations with the focus shifting to retail and sustainability.

Mother nature vs consumer demand

COVID-19 has pushed retailers to adopt significant changes within their global supply chain processes. With these changes in mind, retailers have a real opportunity to adopt more sustainable practices during and after the pandemic. And they should – consumer demand for sustainable brands has not changed since the pandemic hit and if anything has only grown. Brands who move quickly to make a more considered approach possible will reap the rewards.

So, who is leading the way? Luxury e-tailer Farfetch has already moved to develop an online sustainability calculator to help consumers better understand an item’s environmental footprint. The Sustainability Calculator shows the overall impact of specific materials used in the pieces that they are purchasing, along with highlighting the sustainability boost that buying pre-owned fashion will offer. You could find out, for instance, that a kilo of linen can produce 15kgs of carbon and use more than 2,000 litres of water.

With brands becoming more transparent and environmentally friendly, however, comes a bit of a catch-22 situation. As well as consumers demanding more eco-conscious brands, they’ll also likely continue to expect next-day delivery and free returns as part of the buying process…

Brands leading the way

Technology solutions will of course answer some of our biggest sustainability questions. One great example of this is Optoro. Optoro is a reverse logistics solution designed to improve the logistics model by making items set to be returned available for purchase. Returned and excess items create an average of 5 billion lbs of landfill waste every year, not to mention the unnecessary carbon emissions from transporting them. Optoro’s technology reduces this landfill waste by providing seamless ways for retailers to route each returned item to its next best home and enabling a more circular economy.

Alongside this, shopping apps such as Squadded could help to reduce misinformed purchases, so that there’s no need to make a return in the first place. It gives shoppers a platform through which to gain social approval from friends before adding items to their online carts. It recreates the feeling of going out shopping with friends on the high street by inviting them to see what’s on their wishlist. You can ask them for advice, recommendations, create polls if you’re torn between two different items, and you can explore all the latest trends and connect with other users in the community.

Even virtual try-before-you-buy is on the rise, with automotive brands like Mercedes-Benz having launched their virtual showroom earlier this year. Apps such as Zeekit are also offering the first dynamic virtual fitting room so that you don’t make ill-informed purchases online.

It can be difficult for consumers – and brands alike – to keep up with all this technology. But if it means that we can encourage a more circular economy and keep sustainable fashion at the forefront, then it’s worth having your finger on the pulse.

*This is a collaborative post. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.

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