Customer views on sustainability

01 March 2021
By Kim Sullivan

The recent ‘Sustainability in Retail’ white paper from shop! and POPAI looks at the importance of sustainability from the perspective of customers, brands/retailers, designers and suppliers.  In this blog post we pick out the key customer views on sustainability, review how some brands are addressing sustainability and cover how to develop a sustainability plan for your business.

Customer views on sustainability

Studies show that many consumers value products and brands that are environmentally friendly. Brands, retailers and their suppliers can win the trust of consumers—and even cut long-term costs—by embracing sustainable practices and materials. 

A survey on customer views conducted by IBM and NRF found that:

  • 60% are willing to change shopping habits to reduce environmental impact.  
  • 80% believe sustainability is important.
  • 70% of sustainability believers would pay a 35% premium for sustainable brands.
  • Support for sustainability crosses all age groups.

How some brands address sustainability

Levi’s is a leader in reducing chemical and water use in products (did you know a pair of jeans can take 90 gallons of water to produce?). The company uses more than 20 water-saving finishing techniques and shares them with the industry.

H&M conscious collection green hang tags highlight products containing at least 50% sustainable materials.

Stella McCartney is leading the way in sustainable flagships. The London store is lined with recyclable foam and wastepaper from local offices and uses biodegradable mannequins.

Lush naked or plastic-free stores remove the need for packaging. The store fixtures are primarily made from re-employed, reused wood.

 IKEA has committed to using only renewable and recycled materials and to reduce the IKEA footprint by ~70% per product by 2030.

Developing a sustainability plan

According to the ‘Sustainability in Retail’ white paper, companies should begin their sustainability journey by identifying their largest environmental impact areas. For example, their biggest goal might be to reduce energy use and emissions in manufacturing or to minimize material use by improving product design.

Next, they need to research how to make measurable improvements to their products or services that will assist with the development of their green initiatives. When it comes to developing an organization’s sustainable initiatives, no one size fits all. Companies need to strive for eco-efficiency in their own way.

Finally, companies need to convey their sustainability message to their internal and external stakeholders without falling into the greenwashing trap. The sustainability communication strategy needs to address the motivations of the specific stakeholders.

The  ‘Sustainability in Retail’ white paper is available for POPAI members to download from

POSITIVE+ is proud to be a member of POPAI UK & Ireland, a progressive industry association, promoting best practice and dedicated to enhancing the total shopper experience.

If you need help to boost your brand’s eco-credentials call Tony Dennington today on 020 8544 5500 or email

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