How Green is Your DNA?
Karen Skillin in Global, Retail, Retail, Sustainability

In the recent past, it seemed like every retailer tossed a few recycled materials into their store, posted a corporate responsibility statement on their website, or hung a community board in the back of their store and claimed to be green and sustainable. While these efforts were recognized and commended, it quickly became clear that they didn't reveal a company’s true core values. So customers started lifting the green veil from retailers’ faces to try and find the color of their DNA.

If a retailer uses recycled and renewable materials in their fleet of fixtures, does it excuse the use of cotton from ecologically unfriendly sources in their clothing? Or the carbon footprint created from shipping their fixtures and products from across the globe? Or using non-recyclable packaging materials? These are the questions we need to be asking.

Consumers are smart. They are looking past the “green washing” that was so prevalent in the market and demanding greater transparency and authenticity from retailers. They want to buy from and associate themselves with retailers that share their core values, or at least the values to which they aspire.

The green trends we’re seeing in the retail industry vary from those that have minimal impact on the customer experience and the physical store, to those that are transforming the traditional shopping experience.

In an effort to become more authentically sustainable, smart retailers are taking a comprehensive look at their supply chains. It’s here that they are finding the greatest opportunities to make global and ecologically meaningful changes because they can impact so many aspects of their business, which includes everything required to get their products from raw material to store shelf.

Another trend that is becoming more prevalent is retailers utilizing technology to cut down their inventory and deliveries, while at the same time enhancing the customer experience.

Lastly, we’re seeing retailers embrace technology that eliminates the need for paper receipts and expedites the customer checkout process.

In my next posts, I’ll explore these trends in more detail. In the meantime, tell us: Do you think about sustainability when you shop? Are there any retailers you’ve seen that are doing it right – or that are missing the mark completely? Does a retailer’s authenticity impact where you shop? Let us know.

Karen Skillin is passionate about finding a happy marriage between ideas that may not have been meant to co-exist: shopping and sustainability. Her work at Gensler managing projects and leading the charge in sustainability in the retail design practice, gives her the opportunity to work with great clients, and collaborate with great minds and leaders to find solutions to challenging issues. The fact that working towards these solutions tends to raise even more questions along the way, is a bonus. Contact her at
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