Sustainability: Making more from less
Time has long passed, from when a sustainable initiative was not much more than a smart marketing strategy. Sustainability has now irreversibly developed into something essential to establish commercial traction with many customers.
Responsibility for sustainability has also shifted, from the marketing department to every department across a business. Products are being held up as icons of the sustainable age, and so too are the businesses that produce and sell them. Shaming of exploitative businesses and the wasteful products they sell has gained a momentum that is not going to slow.
For our commercial, as well as our existential security, it is essential that retail embraces every aspect of sustainability.
Greater than the disruptive markets we operate in, is the disrupted world that we live in.
A change in material priorities
For product teams that traditionally build collections prioritising fashion trends, colour palettes and high margin materials, the new considerations of the origin of materials, re-cyclability, longer-life cycles and de-constructable combinations of materials will take time to learn.
However, the new considerations can also add creativity and additional possibilities to the collection. The consideration of the mix of product origins – re-used, re-cycled, re-paired, re-cyclable when creating collections can add a relevance to the theme and concept, authenticity to the products, and added-value uniqueness to the styling and finishes.
Sustainability can move onto the front of the product ticket, from the back. Its motif onto the proud chest and not behind the hidden seam.
Expanding sustainable assortments
Buying & merchandising teams need to work from individual items and capsule collections towards full collections that only use sustainable materials and processes. Heightened awareness should facilitate the design and creation of products that also avoid the combination of materials that together make them un-usable, and un-cyclable in the future. Horror-hybrids.
In the product development process itself, the adoption of technologies to streamline and improve the accuracy of the product sampling processes also have the potential to reduce waste through making more products sellable, increasing sell-through rates. Good for the retailer, the customer, as well as the environment.
Lifecycles with the customer
The awareness and considerations about the product lifecycle must now be extended forwards to the customer purchase, their relationship with the product, and its disposal. The retail lifecycle must evolve into the product lifecycle.
The solution is to make more use, and more uses, of what the customer buys. To turn away from the throwaway, to embrace and enjoy possessions. The terminology needs to move on from possessions to investments, squeezing every hour of use, enjoyment, and value from them.
Rental is now a life choice, led by technology. We no longer possess physical music but download rental versions. What we buy from apple we rent for life. We rent other people’s homes for holidays, rent other people’s cars for convenience, we can now rent furniture for our rented homes, rent clothes for occasions.
The motives are flexibility of lifestyle, the ability to change without financial commitment, convenience on every occasion, and the opportunity to use in volume, just not the same things by the same person. Our experience of variety is greater, but our possession of volume is much less.
The cyclical supply chain
The cyclical supply chain is a fully integrated model, where functions and processes work together to ensure that new products are produced, and existing products reused, in a commercial and sustainable way.
On the one side, materials used to make products are sourced and developed to be recyclable and recycled. On the other side, existing products are repaired and refreshed for re-use and rental, re-created to make new products for re-sale.
All processes are coordinated through self-ownership, or exclusive and jointly invested partnerships. Suppliers are solution deliverers. The customer is encouraged to integrate with the system through re-using their products, repairing their products, and renting products when they have no regular need of them. The customer is at the heart of the recycling process donating products which will be recycled into raw materials or into new hybrid assortments.
The participation of the retailer, suppliers, producers, recyclers, renovators, and customers is guaranteed and founded on trust, mutual respect, mutual commercial gain and the ethics of sustainability.
Your ‘sustainability’ project…
If you want to start the ‘sustainability strategy’ ball rolling, please get in touch. I would be happy to share with you some typical project templates, schedules, costs, and case studies.
Please get in touch to discuss further your particular needs.