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Greener solutions for sustainability concerns in retail

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By Published On: September 27, 20220 Comments

As many as a quarter of Australian retailers with existing Net Zero by 2050 goals expect to miss them, according to a new report commissioned by tech giants Microsoft assessing the status of sustainability goals in the retail industries for Australia and New Zealand.

The new report from Microsoft demonstrates a concerning lack of confidence for retailers in their efforts to meet sustainability targets, despite as many as 72 percent of retailers being found to have committed to Net Zero emissions targets by 2050.

Yet while the number of retailers expecting complications in attempting to meet their sustainability goals is high, the industry nonetheless sits below the Australian average (34 percent) across all industries as also measured by Microsoft ANZ earlier this year. Of the respondents to Microsoft’s latest survey conducted with the retail industry expressing expectations of failing to meet their emissions targets, 37 percent suggest feeling held back by shortages of in-house sustainability expertise, while a further 29 percent cited their business’s challenges accessing technology such as emissions measurement and reporting software as being primary contributing factors.

The latter concern, particularly, is one Australia’s largest peak retail group has sought to address with its recently announced partnership with clean-tech startup Greener. Announced earlier this month, the Australian Retail Association detailed their plans to partner with the clean-tech innovator in order to assist retail and hospitality businesses with their sustainability journeys pursuant towards industry goals of net zero emissions by 2050.

The partnership will see the ARA and Greener combine to develop a digital-first solution, titled Greener Business, aimed at streamlining processes for businesses and small businesses particularly to understand and implement methods of reducing their carbon footprints.

“Retail has a lot to contribute to Australia’s sustainability efforts and addressing environmental challenges is a top priority for our industry and for the ARA,” Paul Zahra, CEO of the ARA, said in a statement, “With many small businesses in survival mode in recent years there are limited resources in the sustainability space. There is also an enormous war for talent within sustainability roles and it is very challenging for smaller retailers to secure this expertise. Our partnership with Greener will provide support and knowledge to help small businesses outline the initiatives they can take as they progress their sustainability journey.”

Image: Supplied

Clean-Tech Solutions for Sustainability Sticking Points

For Greener, the partnership is an invaluable opportunity for them to offer their services to businesses most in need of assistance, offering the kind of technological innovation in the space of sustainability that as many as 88 percent of Australian retailers identify as key to achieving sustainability goals according to Microsoft’s findings.

“There’s a real sense of doom and gloom associated with climate change and a feeling that we can’t fix this problem. We don’t believe that’s true, so we’re bringing a positive message of hope and really simple solutions focus to help everyone be part of the solution,” Greener founder Tom Ferrier tells Power Retail, “That said, sustainability is complicated and the more you learn, the more difficult it gets.”

“Through this partnership with the ARA, we hope to make taking action on climate change easy, accessible and rewarding for both businesses and consumers.”

For Ferrier and Greener, a big step forward in assisting the retail industry to both understand and implement sustainability practices involves education, such as in dispelling misconceptions about costs involved for businesses going green.

“There are many ways businesses are saving considerable sums of money by getting greener,” Ferrier says, “By using less packaging, shipping less or optimising routes, switching to solar, or unlocking green loans with lower interest rates, many businesses are saving vast sums of money. Sustainability is all about consuming less, which in turn, saves money.”

The digital solution strategy emerging from the new partnership between the ARA and Greener, particularly, seeks to not only address concerns for small businesses about the costs of turning their attention to sustainability goals, but recognising the challenges of the current economic climate and the demands on retailers to make the process of engaging with sustainability goals both easier and faster.

“We know that virtually every business in the country wants to get greener, but 96% of them are SME and don’t know how or can’t afford the sustainability expertise to do so. They are also super time poor, and are flat out simply trying to keep their staffing roster up to date,” offers Ferrier, “That’s why we created Greener Business.”

Shared Goals for Retail and Consumers Drive Hunger for Action

The clean-tech startup’s goals for its partnership with the ARA at first glance appear considerably ambitious, but the team is far from new to the sustainability arena or to that of the retail industry, having previously developed an app product aimed at consumers looking to implement sustainability goals in their shopping habits.

“What most people don’t know is that everything we buy can either help, or harm the planet. Unfortunately, most things harm the planet. We’re on a mission to change all that, and ensure every dollar people spend, helps end climate change.”

“We are rapidly building a new economy, a Green Economy, that brings people and businesses together to end climate change,” Farrier continues, “The Greener app makes it easy for consumers to reduce their impact every time they spend, by connecting them with businesses that are better for the planet and carbon offsetting the emissions of every purchase. And the best bit for consumers, it does all of this at no extra cost.”

To Greener and founder Ferrier, partnering with the ARA in order to offer retailers their own opportunities to better understand how they can meet sustainability goals and how to implement practices aimed towards these goals is an obvious next step, with clear incentives for SMEs especially to get involved.

“Similar to how the app allows consumers to shop sustainably and track their impact, Greener Business provides businesses with a personalised pathway to net-zero emissions and waste, based on their business type, size, business model and current sustainability activities,” says Ferrier, “In under 5 minutes, a business can see where they’re at on the sustainability journey, and start picking the low hanging fruit. All this, without the expense of having to hire sustainability resources. The best bit for businesses [is] they get rewarded for their efforts with new customers via the app.”

“The beauty of Greener Business is that there’s no need to spend thousands on expert sustainability managers to figure all this stuff out.”

Ultimately for Greener, ambition is the point, meeting the concerns of retailers as identified in Microsoft’s new report through a technological opportunity specifically designed with the benefits of us all at its heart.

“All the hard work is done for you [with Greener Business], so businesses can focus on coming together with their customers to help end climate change.”

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