How to boost sustainability in retail even when costs are your main concern

How to boost sustainability in retail even when costs are your main concern


Adam Danacaster

Adam Dancaster

Interim Director of Retail Stores

Virgin Media O2


4 minutes

22nd November 2023

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61% of consumers are influenced by a company’s transparency about its carbon footprint and environmental impact, according to our latest research.


We know from working with our own retail business customers that UK retailers already understand this. And they’re already making moves to be more sustainable.


But despite 88% of UK organisations believing their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals align with their customers’ expectations, only 12% of consumers think companies are taking significant action.


So as a retailer, what can you do about that? How can you make a bigger impact when it comes to sustainability, while also making sure your customers know about all that positive action?


And how can you balance all that with the many day-to-day pressures you’re currently facing, from the rising cost of doing business to attracting and retaining the best talent?


I don’t believe the answer lies in putting even more pressure on retailers themselves. Instead, it’s time for suppliers and partners to step up and do more to help.

Leading by example

When you’re talking to customers about your green credentials, you obviously have to be able to point to real-world examples of things you’re doing.


And they don’t always have to be big, loud, world-beating schemes that get you headlines. Often it’s the little things, all coming together, that can really make a difference.


Here are a few examples of things we do in our own retail stores.

1. ‘Last person out’ switch

There are certain things we need to keep running overnight, like on-street advertising or demo phones that need to do software updates. But we aim to reduce things as much as possible.


Our ‘last person out’ switch turns off anything that isn’t absolutely critical, helping us reduce our overall energy consumption.


Not only does this have an environmental benefit – it’s also incredibly important at a time of rising energy costs, where reducing our conception can significantly boost our bottom line as well.

2. Sustainability QR codes

On all the price tickets in our stores there are QR codes that customers can scan with their phone as they’re browsing products.


When they do, they’ll get an instant snapshot of that product’s energy consumption, helping them make an informed decision when it comes to environmental impact.


As retailers look to be more transparent about sustainability issues, this is a relatively low-cost way to make a difference. You could even suggest more eco-friendly delivery options that may take longer to arrive. It’s all about giving the customer the information they need to make the right choices for them.

3. Switching to lower energy stores

Whenever we refit a store, we make sure low energy usage is ingrained into everything from the ground up.


It’s all designed with sustainability in mind, from tech with lower energy consumption to LED lighting and more.


Again, this is a case of taking real action on environmental issues, which the customers can see with their own eyes. But it has the added benefit of reducing our energy costs over time as well, so it’s a win-win situation.

Beyond greenwashing

We’ve all heard the term ‘greenwashing’ being thrown around in recent years, i.e. when a brand ‘talks the talk’ on sustainability without really making a material difference through its actions.


But it’s hard to convince the public you’re making a difference when you don’t have the data to prove it.


97% of decision makers we surveyed said transparency and visibility of carbon data is important when choosing tech for their organisation.


Yet 74% get only limited data from their suppliers. And what little data they do get, they struggle to verify. So it’s hard to include it in their reporting or reliably talk about it in public.


That’s why we have a number of ways to help our customers achieve more with sustainability and get real, useful data about their progress – all at no extra cost (in fact, in some cases, we give you money).

Carbon Calculator

Our brand new Carbon Calculator lets you estimate the carbon footprint of some of our most popular business solutions.


The model that is certified by the Carbon Trust as conforming to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Lifecycle Standard, so you can safely use it in your own reporting.

Mobile Recycling Scheme

Our Mobile Recycling Scheme allows you to extend the life of your old or unwanted devices, trading them in for cash to help bring tech waste down and boost the circular economy.


By doing so, you can show your customers that you’re making a material impact on the fastest growing waste stream on the planet, but again, you’re doing it in a way that is financially viable and good for your bottom line at a time of rising costs.

Want to know more or talk with our expert team?