Sustainability. It’s a big word that we are starting to hear more and more of – but what does it really mean? The dictionary defines sustainability as “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” Overall, being sustainable means caring about the earth and the environment and acting on it. There is no doubt that the environment is always changing, however, as it changes humans need to stay aware of the problems that arise with change. An important factor in staying aware is knowing how various industries affect the environment.

Sustainable Retail

It may be surprising to hear, but the retail industry is one that can have adverse effects on the environment. Selling merchandise may not seem like a big environmental agent, however, think about how sustainable retail stores run their business operations. For example, how they use their heat and air conditioning to cool the building, how they package the products they sell, how the products are packaged from the seller and how they dispose of waste. All of these have a major impact on the planet and on the community that the retailer is apart of. This is why retail businesses must take sustainability seriously – the stakeholders. Customers and employees are two big stakeholders in this equation of sustainability. Specifically, the younger generation of people (known as Millennials) care more about being environmentally aware and safe than any previous generation. Not only is it something that customers are looking for in businesses that they are purchasing from, sustainability and social responsibility has become increasingly important to employees and those who are applying for jobs. There are easy ways to start the change, and it needs to start now.

An Easy First Step, Lighting

One of the easiest things a retail business can do which will save it money instantly is switching to LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs are around 80% more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights. Along with that, the energy that is created through LED is converted into light and there is much less waste. Studies show that those who switch to LED lights could save up to 20% on their electric bill each month. Analogous to this topic is being smart about switching lighting when you leave a room. Businesses can replace manual light switches with automatic sensors that will turn the lights off and conserve energy when you leave a room.

Conserve Energy With Your Heating and Cooling

Heating and air conditioning units are one of the biggest consumers of energy that a business possesses. Installing a programmable thermostat which turns off at a set temperature is a great way to save energy and money. The less the systems are running, the more money you save. Rooms that don’t need to be cooled, for example a stock room, should be kept at lower temperatures in the winter and higher temperatures in the summer. Reusing waste from these units is another way to minimize energy and maximize efficiency. The heat that is produced from these units or from company buildings can be collected and used for other purposes.

Implement Reusable Bags

The transition to reusable bags has become a great success in most retail businesses today. This trend is something that many businesses have accomplished and seen admirable results with. Some cities have put a ban on plastic bags, but even if your city is not affected by that policy it should still be on businesses radar. A newer trend is businesses making their customers bring their own bags, not having bags on-hand at all.

Cut Plastic Packaging

This may be one of the biggest complaints of retail business-owners these days. Recent surveys suggest the packaging that manufacturers send merchandise in is encased in an abundance of unnecessary plastic. Owners have stated that each singular Greeting card, for example, is wrapped in plastic packaging. The most straightforward way to rid this complication is by contacting the manufacturers (or the packaging company) directly, ensuring that they cease wrapping items in plastic before sending them to your business.

Sustainable Retail Is Good For Business, Good for the Planet

Today’s consumers are smart and conscientious about the businesses they buy from. With climate change becoming so prevalent, it is time for retail businesses to join consumers in pursuing sustainability and going green. Not only is going green good for the environment, it’s good for your business as well. While saving money, your business can attract new customers and advertise itself as green by earning the Green Business Bureau Seal. The Green Business Bureau helps guide businesses on how to go green and where to start. Using the GBB EcoPlanner(™), businesses can pick and choose from low to high cost initiatives that are low to high impact. Businesses who want to go green, but may not have the capital to go fully sustainable can take small steps in the right direction by choosing which initiatives they would like to accomplish first. Going green is a journey…it’s the right thing to do and it’s just good business.

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