Need for retailers to adopt sustainability is ‘very urgent’

Retailers face an urgent need to adopt sustainable practices, navigating consumer perceptions and innovative labeling systems.

The urgency for retailers to integrate sustainable practices into their operations has never been more critical as the retail industry is now grappling with a climate crisis, not just climate issues, according to Huiqi Ong, Senior Consumer Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel.

“Sustainability is going to be an urgent problem that needs to be addressed right now,” Ong said.

One of the significant challenges, she said, lies in the varied understanding of sustainability across different markets. This diversity in perception, especially notable in the Asia-Pacific region, necessitates a tailored approach to sustainability for each consumer demographic.

She clarified that retailers must navigate these varying definitions and expectations to effectively implement sustainable practices.

Beyond the fundamental challenge of understanding sustainability, the retail sector is witnessing the emergence of innovative practices to promote sustainable consumer behavior. Ong pointed out a notable trend in this area: specific color labeling systems applied to products of various types and categories.

She explained that these labeling systems, such as the SG Fresh Produce label in Singapore, have been recently updated to provide clearer information to consumers. The SG Fresh Produce label now includes three different types, aiding consumers in identifying sustainable products.

“I really recommend this kind of labeling system because it's definitely easier for consumers to identify what are sustainable products out there and it makes it easier for them to adopt more sustainable habits,” she said.

This approach not only educates consumers but also encourages them to make informed choices that align with their values.

She said that the urgency is compounded by the growing consumer awareness and demand for environmentally friendly products and practices. Retailers that successfully adapt to this shift stand to gain not only in terms of compliance with emerging environmental standards but also in building brand loyalty among increasingly conscious consumers.

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