Retail brands failing to deliver on full circle sustainability

Sustainability-conscious brands place high importance on the raw materials used to create retail displays and packaging but neglect the end-of-life outcome, according to new research. 

A survey of 200 retail professionals by international retail installation specialist, 100% Group, found that brands are failing to address sustainability throughout the whole of the product lifecycle, despite 85% claiming that it is important, and 86% ranking it as an important factor to customers when making a purchase decision.

When it comes to in-store retail displays, the research, conducted by market research company Sapio, found that 61% said that their displays are sustainable. Yet while brands find that sustainability programmes come at a cost, incurring an average increase of 18%, the decision appears to pay off, producing an average 23% increase in sales from making displays more sustainable.

The research suggests that the future of retail is green; 22% of retailers said they already have sustainability initiatives in place and a further 43% are planning to introduce them within a year.

Retail display (72%), and packaging (61%) are the two areas where sustainability is taken into account most, but only 41% address it at product end-of-life, suggesting that brands and retailers are missing a circular sustainability policy. This means that retail displays at best end up being recycled, while many are simply thrown away when they reach the end of their life rather than being re-used or redeployed to extend their lifecycle.

Dan Williams, founder and managing director of 100% Group comments, “There appears to be a significant disconnect between the brands that claim to be sustainable and those that apply this in a full circle capacity. While it’s positive to see brands making sustainable choices on the products, packaging and displays themselves, it’s important to consider end-of-life arrangements upfront to ensure materials can be properly redeployed instead of sent straight to landfill.” 

Of the 69% of retail brands that say that their brand has an environmental sustainability policy, over half use recycling targets to manage it, while others focus on material reduction targets (45%) and energy consumption (41%). Although brands appear to be making conscious efforts to improve sustainable practices, the figures suggest that green regulations don’t go far enough, with only 23% of respondents using these as guidelines to set targets. 

Unsurprisingly brands believe that packaging is the most important area to demonstrate commitment to sustainability (67%) with branding and marketing falling at the bottom of the list.

100% Group has recently launched a specialist redeploy service, working with its clients to turn redundant retail displays into materials that can be put to use elsewhere. A recent project saw 100% Group repurpose old product stands into desks for school children in India.

Williams adds, “It’s inspiring to see the results that can be achieved when brands give more thought to end-of-life processes. We look forward to seeing what else we turn our hand to as our redeploy offering and capabilities develop.”

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