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Waste Not
It’s the Little Things:
How to Add Brand Value, Sustainability to Retail Spaces

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, and it is not a feature reserved only for products and services. B2B and retail companies, too, face the challenge of distinguishing themselves in the marketplace with a strong identity that stands out from direct and indirect competitors. The expanded retail landscape has altered the way consumers interact with brands, and E-commerce sites, dynamic mobile apps, and text message ordering systems afford infinite possibilities for communicating initiatives and marketing.

Sustainability is now an essential aspect of brand building. Consumers increasingly expect companies to dedicate themselves to making a positive social or environmental impact on society as a baseline, rather than it automatically adding value. It’s no new idea that consumer brands that have not embraced sustainability and CSR initiatives are at risk. But creating the kind of value that grabs the attention of consumers requires some creative legwork.

Think about the interactions that you, as a consumer, have with retail gift cards. You’ll sometimes get store credit for returned items on a charge card, get gift cards from your favorite store around holidays or on your birthday, take out a “points” card to accrue rewards at oft frequented retailers. These things are often connected to a phone number or credit card, and can be used digitally, but the fact is that 93 percent of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card annually and less than 3 percent of local businesses sell their gift card online — that’s a lot of gift cards floating around.

Tom Szaky
will discuss
Circularity as a
Design Principle
SB'17 Detroit
So what do you do with your retail gift card once it runs out or expires? Some stores allow you to put more funds on your card, extending its life, but for the most part, most gift and other retail cards just end up in the trash. Many registers and checkout stations have a waste bin in which you can throw your used cards, but then the plastic in these items is wasted. Many gift cards are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or #3 plastic, which is not accepted in the current recycling infrastructure by most municipalities. Further, even if their plastic was accepted curbside, their small size would make them difficult to recycle.

Addressing a novel need in the consumer experience creates a memorable association that keeps consumers coming back. For example, 20 VIC Management is a commercial property group in Canada working with TerraCycle to recycle gift cards. At 22 of its retail locations, which include malls and shopping centers, there will be a customized recycling box with eye-catching signage calling on consumers to recycle “Your Gift Cards Here!” The boxes will be located next to the Guest Services desk in the mall and where gift cards to the mall are sold for the convenience, access and information of consumers.

This example illustrates the growing understanding that sustainability is becoming one of the most important aspects of reaching retail consumers. There is a demand for resources to inform and educate retailers and distributors on integrating new processes into their company infrastructure. Recognizing this, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and Sustainable Brands® have come together to host a Retail Innovation Track next month at SB’17 Detroit, where attendees from retail and consumer goods companies can focus on those issues most important to consumer-facing brands. This collaboration between the international trade alliance and the global business network is focused on growing the potential for business success through purpose-driven, sustainability-led innovation that creates scalable positive impact and profitability in retail.

Demonstrating an authentic commitment to environmentally sound practices requires branding strategy in order to be effectively communicated to consumers, and tools are available for companies of all sizes to realize their full growth potential.


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