Sustainability: ways that retailers are reaping the rewards of going green | Quill

Sustainability: ways that retailers are reaping the rewards of going green

Once easily brushed off as a niche consumer concern, sustainability in the way we make, sell, ship and ultimately buy products is now firmly top of the retail agenda.

In the last UK general election, voters consistently placed environmental concerns well ahead of every other issue bar Brexit, beating out immigration, education and even the economy as the most pressing issue facing the country. And with the coronavirus pandemic set to deliver the largest annual fall in carbon emissions since the Second World War, there’s now a voracious appetite amongst consumers of all age groups to capitalise on one of the few positive effects of initial lockdowns and the ongoing reductions in global travel and local commuting.

But while a sustainable retail strategy is certainly an admirable brand goal, does it actually impact the bottom line? The short answer is yes: a staggering 46% of consumers would actively boycott a brand they feel is environmentally unsound. Despite that, our own research shows that almost 40% of brands don’t currently mention sustainability or any other ethical concerns within their product pages*.

So who’s getting it right and what can brands learn to avoid being left behind?

Levi’s: championing organic and responsibly sourced materials


Our research shows that 52% of brands are now highlighting either the organic or responsibly sourced nature of the materials that make up their products, and none more so than Levi’s*.

Alongside major international retailers including M&S and Burberry, Levi’s is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative – the world’s largest cotton sustainability programme. They highlight this fact across their product range, calling out their membership as a badge of honour alongside their legendary jeans.

Levi’s doesn’t stop there, though. They also dedicate an entire section of their site to sustainability, highlighting a range of initiatives including reducing their water usage, recycling their old products and even investing in entirely new sustainable materials. Right on Levi’s.

La Roche-Posay: making recycling beautiful


French beauty brand La Roche-Posay is one of a growing group of brands who are starting to highlight their commitment to recycling in particular across key product ranges. In fact, 22% of brands are now mentioning how easily their products are to recycle*.

In addition to their general commitments around reducing their carbon footprint, La Roche go to great lengths to demonstrate their green credentials by way of 100% recyclable packaging and even recycled raw materials to eliminate waste during the production process.

This chimes incredibly well with consumers, with US retailers reporting a 720% increase in the last 2 years of products made from recycled materials. Good for the environment and for sales – win win!


Sézane: gently nudging their discerning customers to recycle


While the manufacturing process is important, true sustainability is only achieved if consumers play their part too – something luxury French fashion house Sézane cares deeply about.

In addition to a fully fledged commitment to sustainable materials and certified harm-free manufacturing processes, they recently launched their “La Grande Collecte” programme, designed to close the loop on sustainable fashion. Since launch, the programmes has resulted in over 12,000 pieces of Sézane’s own products being recycled by their buyers – a truly impressive feat. Buyers are also gently encouraged to recycle the cardboard packaging used to ship products, or opt out of packaging altogether where possible.

Recycling is a two-way street in retail, and Sézane won’t let you forget it.

Glossier: the lesser spotted vegan unicorn


With the number of vegan products on sale increasing by a staggering 64% in the US alone last year, it’s no surprise that everyone’s favourite beauty startup Glossier has managed to turn this trend into a $1.2bn valuation.

With over 12 million Brits aiming to be at least vegetarian based on environmental concerns by 2021, there’s ever growing attention paid to the ingredients and testing processes used by beauty brands in particular. Glossier have clearly got the message, calling out their vegan and cruelty free credentials on every single one of their product pages. Good to know!


So what’s the message in all of this? In short: sustainability matters. Whether it’s your recyclable packaging, innovative green fabrics or commitment to sustainable, waterless vegan cotton, consumers want to know about it and want to buy more of it.

If you’re concerned about how your green credentials are being portrayed, we’d be happy to provide you with a complimentary site audit to highlight areas to improve, along with other ways to increase your conversion rates.


*based on an analysis of brands in April 2020

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