Retail sustainability strategies cannot become real, until your customers start shopping sustainably.

The issue of climate change is now centre stage, globally. The UK has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030, and will lead the COP26 climate summit this November in Glasgow. With challenging government targets the retail sector must accelerate their sustainability roadmaps, engaging with consumers, old and new, to drive behaviour change.

Meanwhile, consumers increasingly look for products and services that reflect their sustainable values, as we become progressively aware of the impact of consumption on the planet. The recent pandemic has made this a priority. A Mckinsey & Company survey found that consumers became more engaged in sustainability topics during Covid-19, with 88% of respondents believing that they should shop for products that reduce environmental impact.

Conscious consumers as a force for good

There is a need for transparent collaboration between retail and fintech, to help and incentivise consumers to shift spending habits, channelling everyday spending towards sustainable purchasing and reducing environmental impact, while supporting all brands and retailers on their sustainable journeys.  

Can you empower individuals to become conscious consumers who use their financial power as a force for good? We believe that you can. Furthermore, we believe that with the right environment and incentives we can achieve mass consumer behaviour change. Individuals shop daily for food, clothes, household goods, cosmetics and services. Imagine if consumers made mindful spending choices that were better for the planet. Every transaction would become a climate action.  This would mean that retailers and consumers, together, could help to create a healthier planet.

For a long time, climate change has been inaccessible to most, something intangible, an issue that seemed far away, both in terms of time and physically. We have learned that to engage with communities, individuals must be able to think about the planet in relation to their own daily routines, we need to humanise the everyday act of consuming. If someone plants a tree every time they purchase groceries and clothes, knowing that trees enable us to breathe and live a healthier lifestyle, then that person is choosing to use their spending power as a force for good.

It’s not just about trees. We know conscious consumers are already motivated to choose sustainable products. By creating a clear space and a voice for sustainable brands and by offering additional rewards for purchases made from these brands and retailers, those with planetary health commitments at the core of their business models, there is an opportunity to turn more shoppers into conscious consumers. By rewarding people for their sustainable choices, the future is made of conscious consumers and revenue can be channelled back into supporting the retailers and brands who are driven by the same environmental and ethical goals.

Shift everyday spending towards sustainable choices 

The marriage of retail and fintech has the power to create a healthier planet. By changing our perspective and bridging the gap between retail and payments to drive sustainable living, financial data can empower both brand and consumer. By thinking and working collaboratively, purpose and profit can sit on a more even keel and fintech and retail can reflect consumers who want their values, principles and lifestyles, mirrored in their spending habits, while also meeting climate targets, to build a better future.

Collaboration must be inclusive. This responsible decision making extends beyond everyday food, clothing and lifestyle products to services and bigger lifestyle decisions, such as energy, homes, transport and travel, several of which form part of the government’s 10-point green plan. To achieve maximum impact, in terms of the planet and climate change goals, brands and retailers across the spectrum, from those at the start of their sustainable journey, to those with environmental and ethical values at the core, must work alongside each other.

By incentivising consumers to shift spending habits, everyday spending is channelled towards sustainable purchasing. Smart purchasing can not only track spending and trees planted, but it can support brand and retailer sustainability roadmaps, generate revenue for charities and report on overall behaviour change. Through a cooperative approach, data and insights can be shared, creating valuable partnerships that can accelerate climate goals.

This will lead to business models, design and consumer choice driven further by sustainability, with a reduction in carbon emissions. 

Sustainability and climate action are personal matters

We see a future of individuals empowered to reach their own net zero, not by offsetting their carbon but by reducing their environmental impact with their shopping and lifestyle choices, something that is currently inaccessible for most.

The future must be collaborative for sustainable goals to be achieved. Retailers and consumers empowered by data and evidenced based insights that drive sustainable behaviour change, can be a big part of this.

HELPFUL reinvents financial inclusion by creating a payment solution that serves people’s passion for climate action and sustainability. We support brands and retailers’ sustainable journeys and empower consumers to create a healthier planet with their daily lifestyle choices. The HELPFUL Debit Mastercard will launch on World Environment Day in June 2021, in partnership with Mastercard.

Survey: Consumer sentiment on sustainability in fashion | McKinsey

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This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.