Aussie retailers tell us 3 reasons they’re going big on sustainability




April 5, 2023

Brands were buzzing at Retail Fest 2023, with one thing getting every attendee excited – and no, we’re not talking about the open bar.

From the bustling show floor to the packed-out keynote from Greener’s own Parrys Raines, everyone was talking about sustainability. Whether they were far along the road to net zero or just starting the journey, businesses were eager to explore what it looks like to prioritise the planet alongside profits.

Our team had the pleasure of meeting countless folks from across retail (and maybe snap a few selfies with some of our favourite industry leaders). And through these chats, we heard thought-provoking perspectives from people pushing the boundaries of retail.

A benefit to the bottom line

You’ve probably heard or maybe been led to believe that sustainability could hurt a company’s margins. Perhaps someone has told you that going green can be a long and expensive road and you'll need to compromise on profits and revenue to get there.  But Parrys, Greener’s Head of Sustainability, used her keynote to highlight this misconception, saying, “the reality is quite the opposite.”

“Being a green brand can actually improve the financial performance of a brand in the long-term, making the investment now a critical step to future-proofing your business.”

Dean Liebbrandt, Co-founder of outdoor gear brand Nakie, has seen this benefit first-hand, saying, “customers absolutely love that we’re better for the planet.”

“When we do post-purchase surveys, people say they’ve purchased because we’re green and we’re giving back. So our overall purpose is, ‘how do we try to make a difference and not just a profit?’ and it definitely transforms into sales.”

This benefit has also been enjoyed by Henry Reith, CEO of Oh Crap. His team’s mission is to replace plastic doggie doo bags with a compostable alternative, and since starting in 2014, they’ve sold an impressive 35 million. Not a crappy result, if we may say so ourselves!

And it isn't just about the long game – there are simple steps that are quick to achieve and have an immediate impact. For example, businesses could replace halogen bulbs with LEDs, which require 75% less energy to run and last up to 10 times longer.1 This means cheaper power bills, fewer future replacements and less carbon emitted.

“A real difference has been made every day,” he said, and that’s felt by both the environment and the company’s success. Parrys echoed this, saying, “this is one of those situations where you can have both.”

Going beyond greenwashing

As consumers become increasingly conscious of their carbon footprints, they’ll be looking towards businesses that share their values. “The expectation on retailers is continuing to grow,” said Parrys. “[Consumers] are informed, impact-driven and doing their own due diligence, willing to take a stand and vote with their dollar.”

And with eagle-eyed customers comes a need for companies to avoid greenwashing – that is, claiming to be environmentally-conscious with little evidence to show for it. Greenwashing can be a PR nightmare for brands, and national regulators are cracking down on offenders.2

Ellie Degraeve, Founder of home and beauty retailer Go For Zero, says, “there’s so much greenwashing out there and for a consumer it’s so confusing.” It’s why Go For Zero makes an effort to educate consumers and show them what to look for to ensure they’re supporting brands making a positive impact.

It’s also why she’s happy to be on the Greener app, which lets consumers see the environmental credentials of retailers while they’re browsing. “Greener adds a reward for brands – a recognition that you’re doing well [in becoming sustainable]. That’s great for brands as well as customers.”

So with consumers doing their research and voting with their wallets, it’s crucial for companies to get ahead of the curve. “With this information comes the power to make informed purchase decisions that have the lightest impact on the planet,” said Parrys.

Making the planet a point of difference

Being considerate of the environment isn’t just a responsibility for retailers – it can even be a competitive edge. As Greener Co-founder Tom Ferrier said about Dean and the 100% recycled material hammocks created by Nakie, “it’s not like hammocks are a new product, but [Nakie] is coming at it from a new angle and seeing amazing results.”

For Henry, planning with sustainability in mind reveals gaps in the market, and this has led his team to come up with new ideas for upcoming product lines. “In the pet space, there’s so much wastage that we all see every day, and some we don’t see… so we’re going to fix some other things in the pet space.”

And Parrys has seen this throughout the industry. “I’ve seen with my own eyes the number of business leaders awakening to the imperative to invest in developing a verified, leadership position on green. That includes those who, 10 years ago, were not seeing that connection.”

The big takeaway? There’s a lot for businesses to gain from embracing sustainability, and in fact, it’s becoming essential for future success. As Parrys simply put it, “being a green business is good business.”

If you're a business that's interested in being more sustainable, get in touch today.