4 sustainability retail trends to watch in 2021

Retail has a role to play in the battle against the climate crisis. The move towards greater sustainability is not just the right thing to do, it can also help retailers stay relevant and give them an edge over the competition.

Retail and fashion have long been linked with waste. Unfortunately, for good reason. According to research by McKinsey, by 2030 the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to increase by almost a third.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s How We Shop: What’s Changed study looks at how the pandemic has changed the future of retail, and the need for more sustainability in the sector is a key finding. The research reveals that 49% of consumers want to buy locally-sourced products.

The study also shows that sustainability is an ongoing focus for both shoppers and retailers. Well over half (57%) of UK consumers said they would be more mindful of their online purchases due to the distribution and packaging impact on the environment. Meanwhile, 84% are interested in renting products (such as technology, furniture, clothes and fitness equipment) rather than buying them.

It’s statistics like these that reaffirm the need for fashion companies and retailers to revisit their strategies and place renewed energy into their sustainability efforts.

If you’re looking to make sustainability part of your corporate DNA, here are four trends to watch this year and beyond.

1. More environmentally friendly, more ethical

The move towards more sustainable products is here to stay. It’s what consumers want from brands, and the information is being made readily available in the public domain. Sustainability reporting covers everything from carbon footprints to fair wages – and this information is there for all to see. Brands and retailers that fail to meet consumer sustainability expectations risk a backlash on social media.

2. Products need to be durable

Fast fashion has come up against a fair amount of criticism over the past few years, but throw-away culture is becoming a thing of the past. More consumers are looking to buy products that will stand the test of time. 

Cheap and cheerful is out; quality, value and durability is in. On paper, this might sound like it’s a recipe for fewer sales, but that may not be the case in practice. Retailers need to understand their customers, identifying how they make purchasing decisions and offering the products that match those requirements.

3. Innovation in materials + exceptional customer service

Make no mistake: a materials revolution is underway. No longer the preserve of niche markets, innovative fibre technologies and materials science have gone mainstream. Companies are keen to produce the most sustainable materials possible – and the levels of investment in this area is testament to that.

As materials become more sustainable, brands are able to extend their commitment to sustainability further still. From long-term guarantees to unlimited free repairs, forward-thinking brands are going out of their way to exceed expectations in terms of customer service. They are doing this by using sophisticated sourcing processes, integration from supply chain to customer service, and streamlined data management.

4. Greater personalisation

Customers are also looking for more personalisation in their journey to purchase. According to research by Epsilon and GBH, 80% of online shoppers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalised experiences. This ties in perfectly with the sustainability movement, with customers turning their backs on mass-produced items in favour of quality, more individual products. However, achieving this level of personalisation isn’t easy. With huge scope for error in production, digital innovation is vital to ensure operational intricacies are realised.

At Delta Group, we help businesses of all shapes and sizes make sustainability part of their corporate DNA. To find out how we can help your business join the green revolution, get in touch with the team today.