RILA Unveils First Ever Industry-Wide Retail Sustainability Report: Report Highlights Retail Successes, Challenges, and a Vision for the Future
By Adam Siegel, vice president of sustainability and retail operations
Today the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) released the first ever industry-wide Retail Sustainability Report. A year in the making, this report comprehensively details strategies and tactics the industry is taking on a complete range of sustainability issue areas.
It is the first of its kind for the retail industry and features topics ranging from store operations; to product design, manufacture, and end-of-life; to employee, community, and other stakeholder engagement. Specific company efforts and case studies are highlighted.
Due to the size and dynamism of the industry and its sustainability activities, the report provides a snapshot of retail’s efforts. Data was collected from the most recent sustainability reports of 30 RILA retail member companies, which are representative of the industry’s diversity, from food to general merchandise to specialty stores, and from large to small format.
In addition to researching retail companies’ sustainability reports, RILA members were invited to submit case studies for the report, and detailed interviews were conducted with 20 diverse retail companies. 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.
This report is not only the culmination of the retail industry’s activities, but specifically highlights the last year of retail sustainability efforts, which are constantly evolving and expanding over time. The origin of the report stems from RILA’s Retail Sustainability Initiative (RSI), a program that is comprised of industry executives across all segments of retail and is dedicated to supporting and enhancing retail sustainability activities.
The report highlights sustainability trends, shedding light on retail’s evolving business practices and the challenges the industry still faces. It also provides 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.
Key trends from 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
- Fostering transparency in operations and in the supply chain
The report also cites benefits recognized by those leading the retail sustainability charge, including:
- Developing an efficient business through environmental & financial efficiencies, reduction of energy, fuel, materials, waste, packaging
- Actively mitigating business and supplier risks
- Source new innovations that develop technologies & processes
- Strong sustainability programs attract & retain top retail top talent
- Higher likelihood to be welcomed in new locations by offering community and economic value
- Entering new product markets
- Improve reputation with industry stakeholders such as NGO’s, suppliers, vendors, consumers
For those who are familiar with corporate sustainability efforts they know that it is a rapidly evolving field, affecting strategy, operations, workforce engagement, and connection to consumers and communities. RILA will continue to drive leadership in sustainability.
For more information on how to join in the industry’s efforts, please contact: Adam Siegel, Vice President, Sustainability & Retail Operations, RILA, at adam.siegel[at]rila.org.