Best of 2019: Sustainability

Consumers’ desire for more sustainable and environmentally friendly products has been on the rise for some time, and retailers have taken notice.

In 2019, The Iconic, Sheridan, Kathmandu and others took significant steps to make their operations more sustainable, whether by setting goals to use recyclable packaging for online orders, or launching product take-back schemes to keep textiles out of landfill.

Here are a few of our favourite stories on sustainability from the past 12 months.

Australian retailers back climate strikes

Approximately 300,000 people rallied against climate change in Australia in September, joining millions more across the world. The participants were calling for a switch to 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030, as well as an end to coal, gas and oil projects.

But it wasn’t just members of the public and students taking part in the strikes, with more than 2800 businesses across the country taking a stand together under the “Not Business As Usual” alliance, including retailers such as Mud Australia, Koala and Australian Geographic.

The Iconic launches sustainable fashion vertical

In April, the Iconic launched a new initiative, Considered, making it easier for customers to shop according to their personal values.

A new vertical on the website, Considered allows customers to easily find products based on five different values: sustainable materials, eco-production, fair production, animal-friendly and community engagement.

Sheridan sets ambitious sustainability targets

Australian textiles brand Sheridan has just announced its sustainability goals off the back of a national campaign called “Make Tomorrow Beautiful”, which focuses on promoting the business’s environmental and social measures.

By 2020, Sheridan’s product range will include more sustainable fibres and more responsible production processes. By 2025, 100 per cent of Sheridan’s consumer packaging will be reusable or recyclable and every new product will be designed to consider end-of-life. 

Retailers are selling sustainability, but are customers buying?

For years, retailers have been referencing the fact that today’s consumers prefer to buy from socially and environmentally-conscious brands. A widely cited 2015 poll from Nielsen found that 66 per cent of global consumers, and 73 per cent of millennials, are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. But new research from Kathmandu has cast doubt on this conventional wisdom.

In a recent survey of 1000 Australian consumers, the outdoor gear and clothing retailer found that one in two shoppers do not consider the social, environmental and ethical impacts of the fashion industry when purchasing clothing items. And a whopping 97 per cent of those surveyed had not purchased from a sustainable, eco-fashion brand in the 12 months prior, or at least they had not intentionally done so.

The rise of the B Corp

Today, there are 26 B Labs and more than 2800 B Corps worldwide, including 270 in Australia, which is the fastest growing country per capita for B Corps. Among them are several retail businesses, such as Outland Denim, Etiko, Koala, GlamCorner, Bellroy, Flora & Fauna, KeepCup, Good Day Girl, Arndsorf and Kester Black, as well as numerous other brands. 

In July, B Lab Australia and New Zealand sought to capitalise on this momentum with a month-long marketing blitz. Local B Corps posted videos on social media, offered discounts and participated in events to raise awareness among businesses and consumers. It wasn’t the first B Corp Month the nonprofit had orchestrated in Australia, but it was by far the biggest. 

Aussie retailers donate $100 million of excess stock to charity organisation

Australian retailers and brands including Big W, L’Oreal Australia, Lush and Woolworths have collectively donated $100 million worth of brand new surplus stock to the not-for-profit organisation Good360 over the past five years, helping families in need across the country.

The not-for-profit works with schools and charities, such as Vinnies, The Salvation Army and Rural Aid, to distribute everyday items like clothing, toiletries, bedding, backpacks and other essentials to families in need.

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