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Retail Industry Trends in Sustainability Defined in RILA Report

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Most companies surveyed for RILA’s recent sustainability report have full-time sustainability teams. These teams are growing in size, and their reporting levels are gaining seniority.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has released its second report on sustainability efforts in the retail industry. The “2013 Retail Sustainability Report” highlights the retail industry’s progress toward achieving its sustainability objectives and identifies the characteristics of top-performing companies in that area. The project was undertaken with the consulting firm Ernst & Young.

RILA interviewed and surveyed its retail members to determine how they manage, invest in, and implement sustainability programs. The respondents are retail companies with more than 65,000 locations and $1 trillion in global revenue.

The study identified six significant trends:

  1. Sustainability teams are growing. Most companies surveyed have full-time sustainability teams. These teams are growing in size, and their reporting levels are gaining seniority.
  2. Companies are requiring payback on their sustainability investments of two to three years. Most companies act on sustainability investments that can be expected to yield a two- to three-year payback.
  3. The breadth of sustainability activities is increasing. Respondents predict that the sustainability function’s responsibilities will significantly increase in scope over the next two years.
  4. Tracking of sustainability metrics will increase. Most retailers currently measure energy, fuel, material usage, and waste generation. More than one-quarter of retailers said that over the next two years, they would begin to measure code-of-conduct compliance, water usage, suppliers’ compliance with social responsibility standards, renewable energy generation, and usage of chemicals of concern.
  5. Three key stakeholders are applying pressure. Pressure for retail sustainability efforts is strongest from employees, competitors, and regulators.
  6. There are identifiable attributes of top-performing companies. Certain concrete attributes contribute to the growth and success of a retail sustainability program.

One of the primary takeaways from the research results is that sustainability programs clearly benefit not just consumers and the environment but also the retailers. “RILA members are committed to implementing sustainability across their organizations because they recognize the inherent business value that those programs generate,” says Adam Siegel, RILA’s vice president of sustainability and retail operations, in announcing the report’s release.

Click here to read the full report.

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