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Employee engagement, is it key for sustainable retail?

sustainable retailSome retail brands are much more advanced in terms of being sustainable and are leaving others behind them.

Those retail brands left behind however have a good opportunity to adopt a more sustainable approach this can lead to appealing to a wider customer base. Saving on expenses over time is just a by-product of this. For it to be a success brands must be swap and commit to their newly adopted method.

Usually, the approach to sustainable retail means critiquing the current processes that are in place and adjusting how these areas are managed. Areas of improvement are flagged, and changes are made, normally in the form of swapping out environmentally-unfriendly old equipment with new, eco-considerate ones. But this basic approach of swapping out doesn’t achieve anywhere near the full scope of potential when it comes to sustainability.

A big change to the actions and sustainability of the company would be achieved by instructing your employees to put the waste in a new, separate bin if it is made of one material and not another is easy. But it doesn’t change the mindset of the person; the waste item is still waste, it’s just going in a different box now.

However, what if there is a change you could make that would be much greater? Instead of viewing waste as a disposable problem for one container or another to be collected, encourage the view that the material is not waste at all. It isn’t without value to the company — it won’t be used by the employee, but it is still a valuable resource that the company has produced and that could be used.

Although the message itself is quite simple, the sheer difficulty of getting the message through to the entire company and all employees partaking is clear. Even more difficult than that, would be to get the message to spread throughout the industry

The initial play is to realise that it won’t be too difficult to persuade people to get involved and follow the plan. People do, for the most part, want to do the right thing. Now more than ever, people are inherently aware of their impact on the environment and want to reduce it. Most accept that it is a group effort too!

The difficulty of keeping people invested in action does loom. Often, 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. For long-term goals to be stuck to, a form of monitoring, measuring, and reward along the way is needed in order to maintain enthusiasm to reach that distant goal.

Precautions do have to be introduced in order to ensure the effort is companywide. 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, for example, 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 this attitude helps engrain a consistent focus on sustainability among all employees.

Procurement is an ideal place to begin. Here, we will look at a company’s waste management process, whether it’s small-scale bin collection or a frequent skip is an example.

The review of a company’s past methods and trying to introduce sustainable retail often just focus on achieving the same result but by saving costs. 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 in moving away from the old process and accepting that, while it worked for the company then, it no longer supports the need for sustainable retail 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.

The transparency of your company’s processes is key in keeping the focus on and strengthening its processes, meaning plans and processes are documented and open to the public. A published statement declared timescales, and defined targets are far more convincing than a sweeping statement of commitment to the cause.

A goal is an ideal end result to work towards, sometimes they become unachievable and if this is the case this should be shared not withheld in fear of consequences. If the goals cannot be reached, be open as to why this is. You may have found an external or internal factor that prevented a goal from 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!

For further assistance on managing change, you can seek advice from the likes of Impact International who provide change management training that would help you gain the confidence you desire to lead your company through big changes. The biggest challenge is certainly bringing everyone within the company on the same page as quickly as possible to ensure it’s a smooth process.