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    Environmental awareness in the retail sector

    As the depletion of non-renewable natural resources continues at a worrying pace, and waste production rises, you don’t need us to spell out the environmental benefits of sustainable processes.

    In response to these issues, retailers are increasingly coming under the sustainability microscope. And it’s a topic we discussed at Retail Rocks – our annual gathering of some of the UK’s leading retailers.

    The role of retail

    The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #12 aims to ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.’ How? Efficient, sustainable use of natural resources, halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and drastically reducing waste generation.

    Retailers find themselves in a unique position regarding their influence and ability to drive large-scale social change around sustainability. They’re the ‘middle-men’ between producers and consumers. And if they put environmental sustainability at the top of their priorities, they can pressure suppliers to be more sustainable and encourage consumers to choose these products.

    But other than saving the planet – as if that wasn’t enough – what other benefits do sustainability efforts hold for retailers?

    Ethical values, economic value

    Sustainability and corporate social responsibility have become key sources of competitive advantage in almost every industry.

    93% of global consumers want the brands they buy from to actively support social and environmental issues. Products that feature fair trade or organic labels receive higher consumer interest. And 66% of global consumers are happy to pay more for sustainable products – a figure which rises to 73% among Millennials.

    Sustainability efforts boost the respect people have for your brand, your marketability and your credibility. All while opening your products out to new audiences and customers.

    Protecting the planet (and your bottom line)

    There’s a perception that operating a more environmentally sustainable business model is expensive, or unviable, especially for smaller businesses.

    But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can reduce the amount of energy you’re using, improve your reputation and save money in the process.

    Start small: make sure your lights are turned off at night, go paperless to save on printing and posting, or move to an energy supplier that uses 100% renewable sources. They’ll give you advice on how to cut your energy use further and you could find a tariff that’s cheaper than your current deal.

    Also, environmental waste is economic waste. So you’ll be wanting to think about how you can prevent, reduce, recycle and reuse the waste you’re producing too. Actively searching for and implementing a better, greener way of running your business will increase your staff’s commitment to your vision. And that will, in turn, help to reduce your employee turnover and recruitment costs.

    Environmental innovation and tax incentives

    Rebecca Prince, our resident Retail and Research and Development (R&D) expert, has worked with several clients that have made their business operations more sustainable and qualified for the government’s generous R&D tax credits in the process.

    These projects have included:

    • Sustainable, eco-friendly packaging
    • Development of organic and environmentally friendly products and waste management/recycling systems
    • Cloud based management systems to create paperless warehouses and minimise fuel and energy consumption, and
    • Incorporating Alternative Clean Energy into production processes.

    Our R&D team have been working on R&D tax credits and incentives since it all started in 2000. This experience means we’ll remove the misconceptions and show you there’s much more to R&D tax credits than white coats, labs and innovation centres.

    We know exactly what we need to find, whatever the industry. So, if 1) You’ve made some changes to a product or manufacturing process, and 2) These changes weren’t obvious or easy, and you weren’t sure how to do them from the off; it’s time for us to chat. We think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

    And if you’ve already had an R&D claim done by another accountant, are you sure they found every qualifying element of your business? We’ve uplifted multiple R&D claims done by other accountants; finding £11.5m of additional qualifying expenditure this year alone.

    Which brands are leading the way?

    Waitrose is launching its ‘invisible door’ later this year; ‘AirDoor’ technology that has been developed by sustainable tech company Wirth Research. It’s an archway that sits outside store entrances, featuring sensors that detect airflow in both directions. These allow it to counteract warm air leaving the store in colder temperatures, and likewise cold air during warmer temperatures.

    Going forward it’s predicted it could save UK retailers a combined £1.5bn a year on energy bills.

    Coca-Cola own a bottling plant in Switzerland that has been giving sparkling drinks their fizz by sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. As carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been at any point in the last 400,000 years, and deforestation has left trees much less capable of combatting it, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Albeit one that needs much more widespread uptake to even scratch the issue’s surface. But here’s hoping.

    Unilever have done much to set the benchmark for sustainability efforts in the corporate world. For 17 years straight they’ve been named the number one Personal Products brand in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and they’ve promised to make all their packaging compostable, reusable or recyclable by 2025. One of their latest forays came in the form of a ‘Rethink Plastic’ Hackathon. The product? A plastic-free laundry tablet which eliminates the recycling issue posed by the billions of single-use laundry liquid sachets sold around the world each year.

    So, it’s time to think: are you doing all you can to make your business more environmentally sustainable? Boosting your sales, attracting and retaining the best people and saving a hell of a lot of money may just depend on it.


    CAT KELLY, Head of Retail and Relationship Partner

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