While it’s so important for every business, retail or not, to focus more on eco-friendly practices, it’s getting to a point more and more where some of it seems to be disingenuous in the name of making a bigger profit. Consumers are after supporting retail businesses that are working with the planet and sustainability, trying to help it, and businesses see that.
They’ll do what they can to make “eco-friendly products,” boost prices, and put false claims in their advertising and sustainability reports. Even fast fashion companies, one of the biggest contributors to textile waste and unethical practices (and poor working conditions), are now using supposed labels stating that things are sustainable when, in fact, they’re not. All of these disingenuous practices have a word: greenwashing.
Greenwashing has gotten worse, not just with big brands, but with small brands too, even in retail- whether big or small is doing this too. Of course, it’s not every business, but there are plenty that are. So, no matter what size you are, you can hands down count on the fact that you’re going to gain more favour and loyalty by being authentic and entirely transparent in your sustainability practices. So, here’s what sustainable retail can do without coming off as greenwashing.
It’s All About Transparency
When it comes to authenticity, one thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that if you have something to back up your claims, you’re going to be far more trusted. The same goes for just admitting mistakes here and there, too.
Consumers dislike the secrecy that so many brands (retail businesses included) have when it comes to where they’re getting their products, what they’re made from, where it’s sourced, and so on. The same can be said for “sustainability reports,” too, and how a lot of retail brands keep to being extremely vague with them. Consumers dislike it, so it’s best to just practice what you preach and prove how authentic your brand is.
It helps to work with other businesses that are just as transparent because this means that you can keep your business transparent, too; you might want to consider suppliers that are transparent, a chemical manufacturer who embraces transparency, and even businesses you outsource, too as well. Sure, it can be tough, but in general, the more open you are, the more apparent it is that your business isn’t greenwashing and that it’s truly the real deal.
Make Your Sustainability Goals Clear
More businesses are doing this, but some businesses will make unrealistic goals or goals that are far too easy to reach all in the name of drumming up some positive PR. So, your retail shouldn’t aim too high or too low either. So, you should set clear, measurable sustainability goals and communicate progress regularly. When consumers see tangible efforts to reduce carbon emissions, waste, or water consumption, it becomes evident that a retail brand is genuinely committed to sustainability.
Sure, you should have something on your website about your goals, even on social media such as LinkedIn, but you don’t want to give too much attention to this or make it a major announcement (such as plastering everywhere) because it will come off as a big PR greenwashing stunt. So be subtle and give some small updates here and there about the progress without making it something huge.
Work Towards More Certifications and Third-Party Verifications
When it comes to transparency to your customers and just consumers in general, one thing that’s going to help with your argument that your retail is sustainable and eco-friendly in general is through getting the right type of certifications and certain verifications. While in each industry, country, region, and even continent, it’s all going to vary, you’re going to have to see what’s needed for your industry and the area where you operate your business.
Think of those seals and certifications such as Fair Trade, Certified B Corporation, Planet Mark, Good Business Charter, and so on. These can absolutely validate a retailer’s commitment to sustainable practices. Plus, these certifications provide independent verification of their claims, making it harder for them to greenwash.
Education and Engagement
So, essentially, any business can create content about being eco-friendly, and any business can educate (and engage) with audiences about it. Even a business that’s not actually doing anything sustainable in the slightest can still technically create content like blogs or social media posts about it. But with that said, that still shouldn’t stop you and your retail from creating effective content educating your audience.
Genuine commitment to sustainability includes educating consumers. You can engage by sharing information about eco-friendly products, best practices, and ways to reduce their environmental footprint. This not only builds trust but empowers consumers to make more sustainable choices.