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Climate Action Roadmap

Climate Action Roadmap

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Section 8

Pathway 5: Helping our employees and customers to live low carbon lifestyles

The retail sector provides goods and services that are vital to customers’ lives and lifestyles, facilitate work and creativity, and supporting enjoyment and wellbeing. The products customers choose, how they use them, and what they do with them when they are no longer needed, all have a fundamental impact on the carbon footprint of every customer, and the retail industry. 

As customers start to respond to the climate emergency, shopping preferences and needs are changing. Customers are paying more attention to environmental impacts, demanding more transparency, and making lifestyle changes. Recent customer insights show: 

  • Over 70% of customers consider the environmental impacts of their choice of food and grocery retailers and products, while more than 64% consider environmental impacts in their choice of clothing and footwear retailers and products.
  • 88% of customers want brands to help them live sustainably.[119]
  • 70% of customers are more interested in the transparency and sustainability of products than choosing their “favourite” brand.[120]
  • 79% of customers are changing their preferences based on the social responsibility, inclusiveness or environmental impact of their purchases.[121]
  • Over just two years, the proportion of UK customers who eat meat substitutes increased from half in 2017 to around two-thirds (65%) in 2019.[122]In food retail, for example, almost a quarter (23%) of all new food product launches in the UK in 2019 were labelled as vegan, up from 17% in 2018.[123]

Retailers are rapidly evolving their offers to respond to these trends. The retail industry shapes the choices available to customers and is sophisticated in its communication with and influence on customers. Retailers can play a central role in helping people make the transition to low carbon lifestyles. 

The recent citizen’s assembly on climate change in the UK highlighted the crucial role of UK citizens in reducing carbon emissions. The Climate Assembly strongly supported a future in which businesses lower carbon emissions by making and selling products using less energy and materials. They backed a range of policies to support this aim, including resource efficiency targets and standards. The Assembly also highlighted the need for better information to promote informed choice and changes in individual behaviour. They supported 'labelling and information about the carbon emissions caused by different products and services' (92% agreement) and 'product labelling and information campaigns about what can be recycled and why it's important' (92% agreement).[124]

As customers increasingly shop with companies that reflect their sustainability aspirations, there is a strong and growing business case for retailers to provide low carbon products and services, facilitate the circular economy to reduce waste, and provide climate information and guidance. By acting in these areas retailers can help customers cut their carbon emissions together with their shopping and energy bills.

[119] Data taken from GlobalData’s survey conducted in September 2018 as shown on Retail Insight Network
[120] The Honest Product – Consumer Goods Forum & Futerra (2018)
[121] How sustainability is fundamentally changing consumer preferences (2020). Capgemini Research Institute
[122] Data from Mintel as published by WARC (Jan 2020)
[123] Data from Mintel as published by WARC (Jan 2020)
[124] The path to net zero: Climate Assembly UK full report (Sept 2020) - Climate Assembly UK