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Organizational Change
2013 Retail Sustainability Report Showcases Industry Trends, Progress

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has released its 2013 Retail Sustainability Report, which highlights progress towards the industry’s evolving sustainability objectives and identifies a class of top-performing characteristics.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has released its 2013 Retail Sustainability Report, which highlights progress towards the industry’s evolving sustainability objectives and identifies a class of top-performing characteristics.

Sponsored by Ernst & Young, the 2013 Retail Sustainability Report examines activities and trends across RILA’s membership, and offers a detailed view of the industry’s adoption of sustainability programs, which strive for benefits from improved customer loyalty to decreased costs to more resilient supply chains. Data was drawn from survey responses by RILA member companies, which collectively represent more than 65,000 locations and $1 trillion in global revenue.

“This RILA report helps me and my industry peers keep a pulse on the evolving field of retail sustainability,” said Fred Bedore, senior director of sustainability at Walmart and chair of RILA’s Retail Sustainability Initiative (RSI).

RILA developed the RSI in 2007 and has continued to guide retailers integrating sustainability initiatives into their strategy, operations, workforce and community involvement.

“It’s incredibly encouraging to see the collective impact the retail industry is having on this important work,” said Kate Heiny, senior group manager of sustainability at Target. “At Target, we look forward to continuing to do our part, working with fellow retailers to create lasting, sustainable change.”

The survey uncovered six significant trends:

  1. Sustainability teams are growing.
  2. Most companies act on sustainability investments that expect a two- to three-year payback.
  3. Breadth of sustainability activities is increasing.
  4. Most retailers measure energy, fuel, material usage, and waste generation; more than 25 percent more will begin to measure code of conduct compliance, water usage, renewable energy generation, chemicals of concern and more over the next two years.
  5. Pressure for retail sustainability efforts is strongest from employees, competitors, and regulators.
  6. Certain identifiable attributes contribute to the growth and success of a retail sustainability program.

“RILA members are committed to implementing sustainability across their organizations because they recognize the inherent business value that those programs generate,” says Adam Siegel, RILA’s VP of sustainability & retail operations. “We are pleased to share this report with our members and the wider community to highlight the progress they are making and the challenges they still face.”

The report is divided into two sections: Managing Sustainability and Implementing Sustainability.

Managing Sustainability outlines the structure of sustainability teams, and companies’ investment, planning, measuring, and reporting strategies. The data showed that most respondents have full-time sustainability teams, which have grown in size over the last four years to keep pace with the growing breadth of responsibilities. However, despite the growth in staff, sustainability budgets are remaining the same.

Implementing Sustainability discusses operational strategies for buildings and supply chains, as well as stakeholder engagement. Waste and energy reduction are the top facility-related improvements that retailers are undertaking, though managing greenhouse gas emissions and water use and building with green techniques will grow significantly over the next two years. Supply chain improvements have focused on transportation fuel efficiency, materials, including chemicals of concern and packaging design. Transparency remains a key trend, and managing all aspects of the product life cycle will become increasingly prevalent practice over the next two years.

“These management and operational strategies are strengthening retail businesses and positioning them for long-term success,” continued Siegel. “RILA will continue to track the industry’s progress over time and work with our members to uncover the greatest business value from their efforts,” Siegel concluded.

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