Social responsibility departments used to be an addition that companies had in order to comply with governmental regulations and that ultimately worked as a marketing tool to make the company look good. However, that mind-set seems to be part of the past as more and more companies claim that social and environmental sustainability is part of their core businesses, and not just a superficial addition.
This trend is also present in the retailindustry. Big retailers in the United States all have some sort of goals or strategies that in one way or another show their approach to environmental and social sustainability. Many believe that those are still not enough and that especially big companies should be doing more to protect the environment. However, it is true that at least the issue is now more public than ever before and that companies are feeling the pressure to do better.
One example is Target, the retailer has set 4 commitments as part of its corporate responsibility strategy: environment, team member well-being, education and volunteerism. Offering more organic products, reducing packaging waste in their private labels, using energy more efficiently in the stores and buildings, are goals that the store chain has already met. But other critical actions, such as improving their sustainable sourced seafood selection is still a big challenge for the company.
Another example is Walmart, the biggest retailer world-wide, who has set its own goal of being supplied 100% by renewable energy and that also claims that have achieved a material diversion from landfills rate as high as 90% in countries like Japan and U.K, 81% in the United States and 70% in Mexico.
Similarly, Macy’s and Bloomingdales have entered this trend by creating a stronger and more creative online presence related to its sustainability strategy. The web-page macysgreenliving.com is solely dedicated to showing the work that these fashion retailers are doing towards achieving their sustainability goals. As an example, Macy’s own brand is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an international trade organization that works towards reducing social and environmental harm caused by apparel and footwear products.
The list of examples continues and from all the social responsibility reports it would be possible to argue that even big companies are trying hard to reduce their footprint on the planet. However, it is clear that these steps are very small compared to the long road that is still to be walked towards achieving a more responsible and sustainable general lifestyle. It will be interesting to keep an eye on what these companies can do to innovate and to turn the retail into a truly eco-friendly industry.