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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Reimagining Retail:
3 Strategies to Help Shape the Future We Want

As Brand-Led Culture Change continued, we heard from a number of players touching retail on how they’re nudging consumers toward more climate-friendly purchases and shifting the model to create a more just and inclusive shopping experience.

Using applied behavioral science to shape new shopping, consumption behaviors

Sille Krukow details some of the nudging techniques used at Coop Denmark | Image credit: Jeremy Osborn

Allison + PartnersWhitney Dailey led this fascinating discussion about a high-impact behavior-change partnership between Krukow Behavioral Design and Coop Denmark — a 1000+-store, member-owned grocery cooperative with 2 million members. Coop provides in-store food shopping experiences to more than 5 million customers every week and has thousands of global suppliers.

Jonas Engberg, Head of Climate at Coop, explained how the retailer has prioritized consumer behavior change as a key pillar of its climate strategy — as 50 percent of its emissions reductions (read: Scope 3 emissions) need to come from behavior change in the next decade. Engberg walked the audience through Coop’s methodology, its climate targets, and its commendable progress to date. He highlighted how in many instances, lower-carbon food choices are actually higher-margin products — making them a win-win for the company’s bottom line. Carrots, for example, have a higher contribution margin than beef; as does chicken. As a result, the company promotes these products as low-carbon shopping choices and tries to “nudge” customers towards them while in store.

Krukow principal Sille Krukow explained that their collaborative approach — which can be adapted to suit any retailer — was based on research, experimentation, data collection and iterative intervention. She described how consumers have a bias towards the status quo; and how quickly they can become overwhelmed and revert to normal behavioral patterns if too much information is provided and/or not presented through a simple visual vocabulary.

She also described a number of specific examples of “nudges” that direct Coop customers towards lower-impact options — including placing clearly labeled low-carbon food choices near popular products such as bananas, or having the natural flow of the store experience start with low-carbon food choices and end with higher-carbon food choices. The results have been promising — with shoppers in trials significantly reducing the carbon footprint of their in-store food choices, while also helping Coop increase margins and drastically reduce CO2 emissions and food waste.

Reimagining retail for a just and regenerative economy

Image credit: Andrea Bova

Retail is something we all encounter. From fashion to grocery chains, we are consistently engaged with products and services competing for our attention. Conscious consumers are becoming more aware of their purchasing decisions every day and increasingly seek out brands that align with their values. Many — including sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future — now find themselves wondering if retail can be a vehicle in shaping a just and regenerative economy. In another interactive Tuesday afternoon session, Forum Chief Executive Sally Uren and sustainability strategist Natasha Mehta shared their latest thinking on how retail models can enable stakeholders to live a good life within planetary boundaries and how they can be accelerated.

Three key ingredients are considered key components of a just and regenerative economy in the retail sector — resource-efficient business models, leveraging emerging cultural shifts, and centering equity. Regarding resource-efficient business models, the Forum team highlighted examples including dematerialization, peer-to-peer, made-to-order, and repair & maintain. When it came to the other two components, cultural shifts and equity, there emerged an overlap on what is proposed and prioritized — such as how we can drive contentment, connection, diversity and belonging. As changemakers come together to reimagine an economy that is equitable and just, a key element is driving availability to underserved markets — identifying citizens that are not being served by retailers due to factors such as geography, income, specific needs and more.

Uren highlighted the need holistic approaches to tackling structural inequity to be centered around “building greater awareness and sensitivity to structural drivers of inequity and injustice and proactively seeking to address them.”

These principles and models were then applied by attendee groups within the session, formulating how a business model can be used to drive growth while having equity principles centralized and woven throughout.

The role of eco-labels in consumer decision-making

Image credit: Logitech

Brands are being called upon to demonstrate their values every day. Consumer demand for sustainable, productive and socially impactful initiatives continue to guide purchasing decisions. As society is more interconnected than ever before, a yearning for authenticity and transparency continues to soar as consumers become more passionate about their sustainability journeys. One way to assess the level of transparency and authenticity for a brand's commitment to sustainability is through third-party certifications, in the form of eco-labels. Through the implementation and certification of eco-labels, brand equity increases, better customer experiences are had, and progress is made on sustainability goals at the same time.

In this Wednesday afternoon session, Amazon and Logitech discussed what eco-label certifications mean to their brands, what is working well and what could be done to improve moving forward., and

Each brand shared key insights on the state of eco-labeling, from the general consensus on the reality of the climate crisis in Europe to the increasing scrutiny around having more stringent regulations on climate disclosures.

Moderator Tristan Forester from ClimatePartner started off the discussion by pointing out that “You can't climb Mount Everest in a day, but you can start at base camp in a day.” Each company echoed this sentiment by sharing the importance of starting a climate-action journey today with the resources currently available at your disposal. Logitech Head of Sustainability Robert O’ Mahony reminded us of a time when nutritional value was not disclosed on the back of food packaging. Today, consumers are fully aware of what goes into the foods they purchase — which is what Logitech wished to emulate when it became the first consumer electronics company to provide detailed carbon-impact labeling on product packaging across its entire portfolio. By providing consumers with information about the product footprint and life cycle, Logitech gives a silent promise that it aims to improve over time. As O’Mahony put it, “The whole reason we are doing this is to get better. Today is the story of progress, the next one is the story of impact.”

Zac Ludington — Head of Growth for Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly (CPF) program — noted how many consumers are voicing their preferences for sustainable brands and products. As evidenced by the amount of visibility website traffic gives to CPF products at checkout, there is a strong case for ROI. Ludington shared that whille the program is impressive to date — with over 300,000 products by 20,000 brands vetted by 52 product certifiers — Amazon is looking to publicize its standards and provide greater transparency so customers can make even more informed decisions.

The speakers agreed that everyone deserves to be considered and informed on how products and their impact affect them; so, certification is a means to share sustainability information with their customers and empower suppliers. But raising the bar on transparency and accountability should not stall progress. In today’s literal and social climate, every brand on the planet is encouraged to have a sustainability program and verification to show for it.

“If you have an active role in shaping demand, use it for good,” Ludington asserted. “Incremental benefit at scale is a good thing.”

With the movement towards third-party certification growing, seeing improvements in how to quantify and validate sustainable progress is highly valued. There may be an opportunity to find commonalities across sectors as companies look to raise the bar, sharing impact while communicating the progress to get there.

“By 2050, we all have to be part of the club,” Forester called out. While years away, the call for action today has never been greater. There must be a trajectory for the standards currently available and what they can aspire to; and certifiers have the unique opportunity to tailor their approach to certain industries and product categories. Every industry addresses certain pain points; so, brands must make sure their certification is holding them and their industry accountable to ensure trust is maintained.

When asked about the future of eco-labels in consumer decision-making, speakers all agreed on the need for brand teams to remind themselves of the spirit in what you are working to achieve and making those goals accessible to everyone involved in achieving it; eco-labels are only as good as the relationships of the people involved.

“We need suppliers. Retailers used to be fighting against each other — now, they are sitting in a roundtable and working with suppliers on how they can rescue their carbon footprint together,” Forester said.

Ludington concluded by proclaiming, “Don't make the mistake thinking that sustainability can't pay for itself. There is a business case for this.”

Consumers want to see where their money is going when they make a purchase. If they feel they are contributing to a solution each time they reach the checkout counter, they will continue in that decision-making. Eco-labels, as they are, provide that reassurance when transparency is woven throughout and accountability is prioritized above all else.