Study Finds Successful Retailers Are Embracing Green Practices

Study Finds Successful Retailers Are Embracing Green Practices

A survey of retailers' green behaviors finds that companies showing better-than-average growth in annual sales are addressing sustainability concerns across all corners of their business, rather than just a branding or cost-saving exercise.

The survey, conducted by Retail Systems Research in partnership with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, dug into the motivations for why retailers are adopting green practices, and how the companies make decisions on where to place their sustainability efforts.

Across the board, the survey found that environmental consciousness is on the rise among retailers: A similar survey conducted a year ago found that 44 percent of retailers considered sustainability a strategic issue, and then only as pertaining to specific departments.

Now, 48 percent of retailers see sustainability as strategic to the entire enterprise, and an additional 22 percent said it was of tactical importance to specific departments within the company.

More specifically, the RSR/RILA survey explores the differences in sustainability practices between "winners" and "laggards" -- with winners defined as companies whose year-over-year sales grew by more than the industry average of 3 percent. While the report doesn't tie sustainability to sales success, the researchers did find fundamental differences between how the two groups address green issues:
The differences between Winners and other retailers come into focus when we examine their motivations for addressing environmental responsibility. Although cost reductions are important to most retailers, Winners also associate environmentally sound practices with their brand image to consumers and the industry, and associate these practices with their ethical responsibility to the community. Winners seek to create a sustainable Brand advantage by projecting an image of corporate responsibility. Laggards, on the other hand, merely view energy savings from the perspective of cost control.
Retailers that have begun adopting green practices are branching out further into business operations than in the previous survey: In addition to store energy efficiency projects, respondents noted increased focus on IT efficiency and optimizing their logistics, supply chains and packaging.

The full report is available to download for free from figure 1

Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user schizoform.