The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has released the first ever industry-wide Retail Sustainability Report. The 2012 report highlights sustainability leadership in the retail industry and discusses retail’s environmental, social, and community impacts – those impacts within a company’s four walls, in the products they sell, and in the broader communities they touch.
“As one of the leading industries to embrace sustainability, it is becoming a core consideration for the retail industry,” said Adam Siegel, RILA vice president of sustainability and retail operations. “Retailers are working to incorporate sustainability into their strategy, operations, workforce engagement, and connection to consumers and communities."
“RILA’s first sustainability report is an important step forward for the retail industry. Our hope is that RILA’s efforts will inspire retailers around the globe to take action and engage in sustainability more deeply and strategically – to ensure a healthier bottom line as well as a healthier planet. BSR looks forward to collaborating with industry leaders to ensure that sustainability stays top of mind in the years to come,” said Ted Howes, director of advisory services for Business for Social Responsibility (BSR).
“This report is a first look at the broader industry’s accomplishments, challenges, and future directions. It lays a foundation to determine where we can go from here,” said Siegel.
For the past several years RILA has provided resources to empower, enhance, and accelerate sustainability activities in the retail industry, and this report is the first comprehensive look at the sustainability landscape. The report seeks to highlight sustainability trends in the retail industry, shedding light on retails’ evolving business practices, and the challenges still facing the industry. The broader objective is to provide the retail industry and those it serves with a way to act on and engage in sustainability through: framing the critical issues, anticipating future trends, recognizing challenges, and sharing examples of how retailers are responding.
Data for the report was collected from the 2011 sustainability reports of thirty RILA member companies, which are representative of the industry’s diversity, from food to general merchandise to specialty story, and from large to small format. Information was also compiled through multiple industry surveys, industry meetings, and company interviews, across all segments of retail. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) was a key partner in the development of the report.
The report highlights countless company examples to highlight the innovative work of the industry and illustrate what we can anticipate over the coming years. The report also emphasized the important role of other stakeholders – be it landlords, municipalities, product manufacturers, transportation providers, or customers – in the sustainability journey and how various groups can work together to achieve common goals.
Key retail sustainability trends identified in the report include: working across sectors to achieve sustainability goals, turning from sustainability as a cost and risk reduction measure to an opportunity for business growth, developing systems for continuous improvement, and fostering transparency in operations and in the supply chain.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways from the report is that creating lasting change in retail sustainability is not something the industry can do alone,” continued Siegel. “Retailers are reaching out to nonprofits, academics, and governments as well as to their suppliers, consumers, investors, and communities to provide their diverse perspectives and partnerships and help accelerate sustainable innovation for all,” Siegel concluded.