Opinion: How to become a sustainable retailer through employee engagement


By Amy Hodgetts

Sustainability has become an objective for many brands, and some are more ahead of the game than others. If you bring a more sustainable outlook to your brand, it can increase your potential to appeal to a wider range of an audience while in the long run, save money. Though accomplishing such a goal is challenging, what’s important to note is that businesses have to first come away from traditional operations and adopt new ones

Let’s a look at the usual approach to becoming more sustainable in your business. The first task would be to review the current processes. Doing this would allow businesses to spot areas that need improving and implement changes, this tends to be a case of swapping environmentally-unfriendly equipment with new, eco-considerate ones. Despite this being a good objective, it isn’t near a full scope of potential when it comes to sustainability.

Setting new changes is easy, the harder task would be to bring all of your employees on board and enlighten them to be more mindful towards the materials they dispose of as to them, waste is waste. 

A good practice would be to encourage those as well as yourself to think of waste not being waste at all. Of course, it’s no value to the company and its employees, but it is still a valuable resource that the company has produced which could be used one way or another. When you get this kind of message across to the company, then there’s hope that the entire industry will follow suit. 

The first protocol would be to knock down the wall of doubt and encourage faith amongst everyone in your organisation. Usually, everyone wants to do the right thing and people have never been so aware of their effects on the environment and their aim to do their bit to reduce it. On top of that, most of us know it takes a group effort to achieve.

The hardest wall to climb is the long-term vs short-term. Short term goals can conflict with long-term ones; they are, by their very nature, more immediate and therefore seem more achievable. There’s a sense of response and feedback far quicker with short-term goals. In order for long-term goals to last, a form of monitoring, measuring, and reward along the way is needed in order to maintain enthusiasm to reach that distant goal. 

You would also need to take action to ensure it’s indeed a company-wide goal. Silo working, that is, groups within the company who are reluctant to share information with others in the same company can prove a problem. It also encourages the damaging thought process of shifted responsibility, this being teams leaving the entire responsibility on the sustainability team and ignoring the need to change their own attitudes towards sustainability for the process to work. Changing these attitudes would help engrain a consistent focus on sustainability among all employees. 

A good place to start would be via procurement. Here, we will look at a company’s waste management process, whether it’s small-scale bin collection or a frequent need to hire a skip, as an example. 

The focus that’s usually involved during the reviewing process of the company’s old waste management process, tends to be around cost-saving while achieving a like-for-like service. This causes a heavy focus on price per lift and the frequency of collection that can be offered by a third party. But this does not help a company achieve its long-term sustainability goals; even if the service obtained is well-documented, it is still the same old process, just better recorded! Instead, success is better found moving away from the old process and accepting that, while it worked for the company then, it no longer supports the need for sustainability now. A new process needs to be created revolving around your new sustainability goals. In doing so, you’ll have a new process in place that is more flexible, more creative, and far more efficient for your workplace and its current goals. It’s a case of working smarter, not harder. 

Transparency is another process that needs to be considered to strengthen. A published statement declared timescales, and defined targets are far more convincing than a sweeping statement of commitment to the cause. 

A common setback for any company would be to see goals as a goal instead of threats and avoid hiding these goals in fear of failure. You may have found an external or internal factor that prevented a goal being met. If so, shining a light on this can encourage change across the board. In turn, this leads to improvement and innovation, which is only a good thing! 

Companies can also consider seeking advice on change management from experts such as Impact International. There training can certainly help a company embrace change, and lead everyone through it as smooth and quickly as possible.
This article was produced in collaboration with Reconomy.    


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