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Sustainability trends in retail 2022

Small Business Forecast: Sustainability in Retail 2022

It’s January, which means many folks are making New Year’s resolutions for 2022. As individuals, we may resolve to live healthier or spend more time with loved ones. For small businesses, it’s an excellent month to review past progress and set new goals for the year ahead. 

So, what’s one smart business goal? Going green in 2022.

A recent study found two-thirds of all consumers say they consider sustainability when making a purchase. And it’s more than just a personal preference; three in four consumers believe businesses can help reverse climate change by adopting eco-friendly practices. 

If these statistics say anything, it’s that sustainability in the retail industry is more than just a passing fad – it’s a market shift that’s here to stay. Ready to get ahead of the competition? Here are five trends to set your sights on. 

Sustainability In Retail 2022: 5 Trends To Keep An Eye On

1. Ethics at the Center of Brand Identity

While consumers of the past based their shopping decisions on status or convenience, today’s brand loyalty is driven by shared values. One major consumer retail trend? Ethical business practices. 

Nearly 60% of Americans consider themselves conscious consumers and 92% say they’re more likely to trust an environmentally or socially-conscious brand. That’s why more and more businesses are placing ethics at the center of their brand identities. 

Toms Shoes, Lush Cosmetics, and Impossible Foods have all built brands around the idea that consumers don’t need to choose between eating well, looking good, and living a pro-planet lifestyle. And major corporations are taking note. Brands like Amazon, Dell, and Apple have all pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.  

So where does a small business owner fit in? By building ethics into your brand identity, you’re getting ahead of local and virtual competition. So, ask yourself: what cause feels most authentic to my business – and how can I champion it? 

Read our Guide to Sustainable Retail to learn more about building an eco-conscious brand.

2. Rise in Sustainable Products

Alongside their growing preference for eco-friendly brands, consumers are increasingly seeking out eco-friendly products. In fact, between 2013 – 2018, half of the growth in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector came from sustainability-marketed products. 

Looking forward, keep tabs on these sustainability in retail 2022 trends: 

  • Sustainably Made: 70% of consumers in the US and Canada would pay 35% more on average for eco-friendly products. These figures will empower more brands to do what it takes to create and offer sustainable items that cater to their customers preferences. 
  • Made to Last: In recent years, Green Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Giving Tuesday have risen as mindful alternatives to the compulsive spending of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. Today’s consumers are buying less and spending smarter; and brands are responding by creating higher-quality products that are made to last. 
  • Sustainable Packaging: The COVID-19 pandemic caused a global spike in single-use plastics and packaging waste. As a result, consumer preference for sustainable packaging alternatives has increased dramatically. Consumers are equally interested in recycled/recyclable packaging and biodegradable substitutes – expect global supply chains to follow suit. 

3. Circular Economy Models 

Historically, products make a beeline from the cradle to the landfill – with only a small period of use in between. But in recent years, brands and consumers are catching on to the economic and ecological benefits of extending the product life-cycle. 

The goal of circular economy models is to keep products in circulation as long as possible, design out waste and pollution, and “close the loop” by reimagining inefficient systems. 

  • Circular Production: Sustainable production starts at the source, with brands repurposing pollution and industry by-products. As an example. Suavs and Rothy’s create gorgeous footwear from ocean plastic, while Ecovative provides retailers packaging made from farm waste and mushroom roots. 
  • Return, Recycle, and Reuse: Customers are increasingly looking for pre-used items, and major brands are getting on board. Both Patagonia and REI have introduced buyback programs, and H&M and IKEA each design products with a second-life in mind. Back Market, a recycled smartphone start-up, raised $120 million in May – indicating a major shift in preference for the latest tech.
  • Alternative Ownership: Rent the Runway, DePop, and ZipCar are all reimagining ideas of ownership. These models allow consumers to access the clothes and cars they need – when they need them – and return these resources to other consumers when they don’t. 

Ask the Experts:  In this clip from e.pop’s new webinar Talking Sustainability, Kelly Wang – founder of Rue Saint Paul in Brooklyn – shares her thoughts about the most exciting trend in sustainable fashion. (Spoiler alert: it’s circular!) 

4. Green In-Store Experiences

While the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked unprecedented growth in the e-commerce sector, nearly half of consumers still prefer to shop in person. But climate change is shifting what they want from their in-store experience. 

Instead of simply hunting for the best deal, more and more consumers want to visit storefronts that reflect their values. Leverage these 2022 sustainability trends in retail by taking steps to green the in-store experience.

    • Sustainable Products: More Americans want eco-friendly products, but nearly three-quarters do not feel confident identifying them on their own. Businesses can lend a helping hand by clearly-labeling sustainable items, which makes 78% of consumers more likely to make a purchase. 
    • Waste & Energy: Brick and mortar vendors will take steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce waste, showcasing these actions as part of their brand values. They may, for instance, implement e-receipt solutions like e.pop, which are eco-friendly and zero-waste! 
  • Green Details: Small business owners know – customers notice the little things. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to add a green touch to the in-store experience. Think recycled gift bags, upcycled light fixtures, and even business cards made from old t-shirts (like e.pop’s!).
  • Incentives: Incentivising consumer sustainability creates in-store experiences reflective of brand values. In 2022, expect more retailers to offer discounts, vouchers, and other incentives for actions like bringing their own bag or opting for e-receipts. 

5. Low-Carbon Shipping 

Customers overwhelmingly want eco-friendly shipping options when they shop online, even those who aren’t usually concerned about sustainability. More than half say they would pay up to 10% more for greener shipping – which indicates a genuine commitment to the cause. 

Here are three trends small businesses can keep an eye on: 

  • Bundling Deliveries: The world’s largest e-retailer is combatting shipping emissions with “Amazon Day” delivery. Now, Amazon customers can opt to receive their weekly purchases on a single day to cut down on shipping emissions. 
  • Offsetting Shipping: Recently, Etsy became the first e-retailer to offset 100% of shipping emissions from products purchased on its platform. The move has been wildly well-received, with other e-retailers expected to follow suit. 
  • Psychological Tools: Researchers at MIT found 40% of consumers were willing to “save” 100 trees over opting for speedy delivery. Their research suggests companies can cut their “last mile” footprint by a quarter by using trees to explain the environmental impact of rush shipping.

Sustainability in Retail 2022: E-Receipts for Small Businesses

e.pop is ushering in a new era of digital receipts, using contactless payments to live more sustainably and efficiently. Learn more about our mission to help merchants connect digitally with their customers – and sign up today to get your first year free!

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Marley Flueger

Marley Flueger

Freelance sustainability writer working to demystify the climate crisis, connect people with tools for lighter living, and create pathways for us all to push the needle towards a fossil fuel-free and equitable future.

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