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As Energy Price Hikes Bite, Retailers Look To Sustainability To Cut Costs

With higher energy prices coming into effect in the UK today, many retailers are facing the prospect of vastly increased bills.

At times of rapidly rising costs for businesses, and consumer confidence low due to customers grappling with the impact of rising prices in their own lives, businesses across the country are focusing on how they can control costs through energy efficiency.

Many are looking to sustainability measures to not only manage costs but also reduce their carbon footprint. Mary Portas, retail guru and business entrepreneur, speaking recently at operation platform SafetyCulture’s Beyond Change event in Edinburgh, stated: “The climate emergency and changes in consumer behaviour are turning up the temperature for the UK’s retailers. Anyone not already reacting to this wave of social and economic change is risking their business. It’s time for a fundamental change in how we operate – starting by prioritising our people and planet.”

Nicky Chenery, general manager for EMEA for SafetyCulture who recently launched a retail sustainability initiative, concurs: “Reaching carbon zero goals, which is not a “nice to have” conversation any longer, is key for the retail industry, and we have a responsibility to make this happen.

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We’re all feeling the pressures of a hike in the cost of living and soaring energy prices, as well as a growing moral imperative to do our bit for our planet. We believe business has to lead that charge and as customers increasingly vote with their wallets, retailers have a critical role to play.”

Why doing good matters

This focus on businesses prioritising people and planet before profit, highlights a marked shift in the attitude amongst many retailers, especially those in the independent sector, towards the importance of doing good in business.

Portas recently announced her co-chairship of the Better Business Act Initiative, a campaign for a change in UK law which would make businesses accountable for their social and environmental impact. She has called upon all businesses to embrace something she calls “The Kindness Economy”, which involves “businesses just doing better all round”.

Speaking on a call, she highlighted the importance of this shift, explaining that this relentless drive towards profit has caused us to lose a “lot of humanity on that journey”.

“We need to use different language in business, why can we not use humanity, spirituality, kindness, love? Things that would have been considered the “soft skills”, but are actually the hardest skills to put into practise.”

The need for the Kindness Economy stems from the burgeoning environmental crisis, and a growing understanding that relentless pursuit of growth is having a catastrophic impact.

“We’re in a world today where we are still seeing businesses abuse our planet and abuse people, ” states Portas. “If we continue to focus on growth, which is probably the most major tenet of capitalism, we have to recognise that growth is killing our planet.

I prefer to think of thriving as opposed to growth for growth’s sake. How do we create thriving businesses that give back to communities that respect the planet, and respect the people who work with them and buy from them?”

Where to start?

Many people want to make a change but for many, it can be hard to imagine where to get started. As Portas explains, “The minute you put sustainability goals in front of businesses, it becomes such a big ask and it feels so huge.

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What is the key to making sustainability, and energy cost savings, an achievable task for your business? Portas suggests that you “start where you are.”

For those in need of additional guidance, SafetyCulture’s retail sustainability initiative gives access to their technology for free for teams of up to 10 users, giving them access to ready-to-use digital audit templates on sustainability, issue reporting and more.

Despite all that there is to do, there is support for retailers out there. As Chenery concludes: “For those looking at the challenges lying ahead and wondering, ‘where do I start?’, we know we can help.”


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