Green retail – the future of commerce?

aware_ talks to Art Director Tessa Riemeier about green retail and how sustainability can be implemented in business management.

The retail sector is under enormous pressure to step up and accelerate its climate protection measures. One of the biggest issues facing the retail sector in this regard is its enormous share of plastic packaging, which accounts for 40% of global plastic consumption. Returns, waste and associated emissions are also an issue: in the United States, for example, around 2.63 million tons of returned goods were disposed of as landfill waste in 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation of returns have also increased over the years and have now reached a total of 16 million tons of C02e. Lastly, the green supply chain is not yet a reality in the industry; retailers’ supply chains are responsible for more than 25% of global emissions (BCG; Green Business Bureau). 

For this reason, more and more retailers are increasingly focusing their strategy and investments on sustainable and responsible growth. They are re-evaluating the sustainability of their products and their overall brand to meet the demands of an ever-widening range of consumers. But they must meet the demands not only of consumers, but also of shareholders and investors, who are increasingly choosing to fund in companies that align with their own values. This includes equal employment opportunity and changing management strategy to ensure that customers, employees and the environment are protected from toxic chemicals, for example (Deloitte). 

There are already a number of brands that are making a difference and redefining what it means to be a successful retailer. These brands have developed a robust model that delivers a triple bottom line: people, environment and profit (Green Business Bureau). 

This so-called green retailing is an environmentally friendly management approach that focuses on providing and delivering goods to consumers without compromising environmental protection (tokinomo).

green retail

Traditional retail stores are given the opportunity to transform or re-launch their business while incorporating the fundamental pillar of being kind and respectful to the planet. This paradigm shift offers more sustainable products and processes and requires rethinking the entire value chain – from the production system to the distribution method and energy consumption (CAAD). 

aware_ talks to Art Director Tessa Riemeier about what this means exactly and where retailers can specifically implement sustainability in their business management.

green retail

aware_: As an Art Director, how do you contribute to a better tomorrow? 

Tessa Riemeier: I have had the opportunity to use my skills to promote sustainable values and create visual communication that aligns with the mission of the retail of tomorrow. As an Art Director, I always prioritize eco-friendly materials that are recyclable or reusable. I opt for natural materials like bamboo, cork, or recycled wood to create a warm and natural look and feel for the store. In addition to materials, it is also essential to select printing methods that are environmentally friendly. This means using water-based or soy-based inks, avoiding glossy or laminated paper, and opting for recycled paper or paper made from sustainable sources.  

aware_: How can retailers transform their business, e.g., their stores? 

Tessa Riemeier: Use storytelling to promote sustainability. Incorporating sustainability messaging into the store’s design can help to educate customers and promote sustainable values. I use storytelling to create an emotional connection between customers and the products. This can involve highlighting the products’ eco-friendly features or the stories behind their production. For example, I worked on a campaign for a showroom that sold clothes made from recycled plastic bottles. We used the design elements to tell the story of how the bottles were recycled and turned into fabric. This helped customers to appreciate the sustainability aspect of the product and feel good about their purchase.


green retail

aware_: When it comes down to waste reduction or energy efficiency – what methods can retailers use to practice green retailing? 

Tessa Riemeier: Emphasize energy efficiency from the start – in the design stage. I use LED lighting to reduce energy consumption and opt for natural lighting where possible. I have also worked on projects where we installed solar panels to power the store’s lighting and heating. In addition to energy-efficient lighting, we have also incorporated design elements that help to regulate temperature, such as using natural insulation materials like wool or recycled denim.  
Furthermore, creating modular and reusable elements for store design helps to minimize waste and save money in the long term. For example, we have created modular wall units that can be easily reconfigured to suit different product displays. We also use recycled or recyclable materials to create design elements that can be repurposed for different projects. For example, we have used shelfs that made out of small plastic pieces but look like marble.  
Lastly, minimizing waste is essential for sustainable retail design. We avoid single-use materials like plastic bags and opt for reusable bags made from recycled materials. We also work with suppliers who minimize packaging waste and opt for sustainable shipping methods.  

aware_: What are the benefits of green retail? 

Tessa Riemeier: In conclusion, working on projects for sustainable retail stores has been a rewarding experience. By prioritizing eco-friendly materials, emphasizing sustainability messaging, and promoting energy efficiency, we create a retail space that aligns with our sustainable values. Creating reusable and modular elements and minimizing waste also contribute to a more sustainable approach to retail design. As an Art Director, I believe it is our responsibility to promote sustainability in our work and inspire customers to live and shop having the planet in mind.

– by Marie Klimczak 

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