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Sustainability is the new IT for retailers
07
May '09
In an opening presentation at the World Retail Congress this week, Guy Champniss, Director of Business Insights at Havas Media Intelligence, unveiled analysis from Havas Media's proprietary framework, Sustainable Futures 09. This first-to-market tool allows brands to analyse, track and monitor their sustainability programmes and the subsequent impact on brand value. The research, featuring over 20,000 consumers in 10 countries, clearly demonstrates the complex and discerning relationship consumers have with retail brands and their sustainability profiles.

Using a cross sector measurement index called the Sustainable Futures Quotient (SFQ) that measures sustainability performance and its contribution to brand value, Havas Media announced a healthy overall picture for the sector. Retailers such as Wal-Mart recorded relatively high SFQs across all of the 10 markets in the research. When looking at the differences from country to country, notable leaders in the field of communications and sustainability were El Corte Ingles in Spain and M&S, Tesco and Asda in the UK.

Furthermore, a number of sustainability attributes assigned to the marketplace, including responsible marketing, fair prices, the sale of healthy products and good customer service, are found to be very important to retail brands. In most cases, the sector is perceived to be a strong performer in this area, resulting in a positive impact on brand value.

When looking into the project in more detail however, we find weaker results with regard to the retail sector's perceived performance in environmental areas (including sourcing, recycling and packaging), workplace areas (including fair pay, employee and supplier employment) and more broadly in ethics and governance. Despite significant efforts from many retailers to lead on sustainable store design, operations and suppliers for example, Sustainable Futures 09 demonstrates that these and many other initiatives are not registering with consumers - and are damaging brand value.

Guy Champniss comments,
“The boundaries of influence for retailers are clearly being challenged by consumers and the importance of genuinely transversal, interconnected approaches to sustainability is clear. Piecemeal approaches are not only less than efficient for businesses; they are less than ideal for consumers. So despite retail being at the front of the pack in terms of the 8 sectors we looked at, there is still a lot to do - and a lot of opportunity being wasted.”

“The retail sector already demonstrated its ability to respond when it embraced IT. The way IT was integrated within the sector is an excellent example of the benefits of introducing a horizontal function across the traditionally siloed work flows within businesses. By focusing on the benefits IT could deliver, the retail industry gained new, more productive ways of doing business.

Approached with a similar mindset, retailers can lead the sustainability process and reap the benefits. Frequency of purchase, price points and deep existing consumer loyalty, allows retailers to offer consumers the most accessible step-up to more sustainable consumption by quickly cementing behavioural change, and potentially locking in longer-term consumer loyalty.”

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