With climate positive businesses increasingly at the forefront, the time to consciously reinvent is now.

The true cost of our shopping basket is far more than the price tag reveals.  

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that our activity as humans has warmed up our planet, to damaging levels that are almost irreversible.  

The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution annually, and uses 25% of chemicals produced worldwide. Meanwhile, the world’s food systems and industries are responsible for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

With full global governmental collaboration, major cuts in emissions can stabilise rising temperatures, which means cutting global emissions in half by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050, as per the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, more and more people are questioning our impact on the environment. Work is changing, the way we live is changing and most importantly our relationship with the environment is changing.

How does retail reinvent? 

For the retail industry it means short- and long-term strategies and solutions are required, to reduce our carbon footprints, putting industry and individuals on a path to conscious consumption, with climate positive businesses and lifestyles leading the way.  

Conscious consumption means engaging in the economy with more awareness of how our consumption, be it of food, fashion, energy or technology, impacts our wider society. In order to be part of the future, to meet climate goals, and to be industry leaders, businesses must be purpose driven, with social and environmental values at the core, alongside economical drivers. This multifaceted approach to profitability, delivers profit for people, the planet, consumers, businesses and investors, across the supply chain. 

The landscape is changing. In September the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) published a Green Claims Code to protect consumers from misleading environmental claims after 40% of online claims were found to be potentially misleading, and The British Fashion Council’s Institute of Positive Fashion launched its report on a circular fashion economy in the UK. Alongside new policy and reporting, grants, loans and environmental tax reliefs and schemes are increasingly being invested in, and directed towards sustainably driven businesses.  

We must deliver clear communication, tools and solutions to meet immediate consumer demands, as well as designing and delivering ideas and solutions for future requirements of consumers, investors, the supply chain and the planet. 

Brands are already looking at alternative ways to design, source, produce and deliver more sustainable products, that reduce emissions, address overproduction and close the loop on waste, with a digital focus, thanks to a vault of ‘five years forward in consumer and business adoption of digital in a matter of months.’

Reflection is key to improved learning 

While we need both short- and long-term strategies and solutions we must focus on long term and imagine a world beyond the pandemic.  We see a lot of engagement in carbon offsetting and carbon removal, and while this can support our environmental actions, we need systemic change with a systems thinking approach, to make more sustainable choices in the first place, which will deliver a lower carbon footprint.

Sustainable shopping can be accessible, exciting and fashionable. Technology is already providing us with new platforms, solutions, access and tools to a culture driven more by sustainability, providing alternatives for the digital generation. Our first piece of consumer analysis revealed that 18-34 year-olds make up 80% of HELPFUL users. Storytelling and relationship building can provide consumers with the information, trust and transparency that they seek, allowing them to make everyday spending choices driven by environmental and social justice, from brand values, to supply chains transparency.

The current spotlight on omnichannel retail aims to ensure you capture all customers, and while digital has grown rapidly we are not a fully digitalised society and we need inclusive models to ensure everyone moves to a more sustainable future, together. As humans we still value physical objects more than digital things. In the payments industry, mobile and faster payments have grown, especially among younger generations, but cash remains the second most frequently used payment method, after debit cards.

There is a movement developing within green and sustainable finance, from new start-ups focusing on sustainability and commerce, to established players adding sustainability features to their existing tools. It’s really exciting to see industry momentum on reducing environmental impact, with the UK fintech industry leading the way. The fast pace of development does mean unregulated and potentially unethical territory. This means that whatever you do, do it with integrity and predict what is on the horizon. By creating sustainable ethical solutions, business models help to address climate change and predict future policy and regulation.

Collaborate for the future 

We believe in the power of collaboration, creating more integrated experiences. We see companies working together, combining technologies to deliver solutions, to bring together purpose and profit, for a better future.  

‘Consumers (and increasingly, investors) will reward companies that treat their workers and the environment with respect, and the deeper relationships that emerge will bring benefits in agility and accountability.’ 

HELPFUL is developing sustainable payment solutions, specialising in net zero and climate positive living.  The HELPFUL Engine is our proprietary software that links payments and consumers to enable transactions, promotes and tracks sustainable spending, generates insights, and facilitates incentives and rewards. Designed as a cross industry payment solution it is collaborative and mission driven - to make it simple, easy and rewarding for businesses (and their customers) to embrace sustainability.

To find out more about Helpful and the services they provide to the retail industry, click here.

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