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How to help drive sustainability in retail—while protecting margin

New tech-enabled tools are speeding up sustainability in the fashion world

It’s no secret that the retail industry has long been criticized for the toll it has taken on the planet—from production processes to consumption behaviors, and everything in between. Progress in creating more planet-friendly practices hasn’t been made quickly enough, perhaps, due in part to a lack of tools that could help make meaningful change. Until now.

New cloud-based technologies are helping retail companies drive sustainability in ways that are good for the planet and good for the bottom line. A new report by Deloitte and Google Cloud, presented at the World Retail Congress 2023, explores how the fashion industry is using tech to power quick sustainability wins that can translate to long-term gains, in and out of the boardroom.

Post-pandemic tech developments

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, society had a renewed appreciation for nature, and perhaps more consideration for our impact on the planet. Cloud-based tech development was fast-tracked, and in the move to a become a more sustainable industry, retail has taken advantage of new technologies that are enabling better data collection, tracking and tracing, supply chain visibility, and more. Not only that, the retail industry is also using tech to power entirely new circular business models, like apparel rental and resale.

Consumer demand, regulatory requires/languages/en/Industries/consumer/analysis/the-global-powers-of-retailingements

Millennials and Gen Z are continuing to increase in spending power and influence the consumer landscape. Despite an inflationary economy, consumers are still choosing to spend more for sustainable goods and services, and have also begun to demand transparency around companies’ carbon footprints. This, combined with regulatory reporting requirements on the horizon, makes it clear that organizations need to take action on their sustainability commitments for both legal reasons and brand reputation reasons.

Leading companies are leading the way

Sustainability and circularity have gained a lot of traction across the industry amongst leading companies and well-known brands like Zara, lululemon, H&M, Gucci, and many more. Luxury fashion house Burberry, for example, aims for 100% of its key raw materials to be traceable by FY2025/26, which means greater visibility into risks and opportunities at the sourcing stage. In Deloitte’s 2023 Global Powers of Retailing report , Caroline Laurie, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Burberry, told us that having sustainability ambitions is no longer enough—it’s time for operational delivery.

Making an impact is easier than it might seem

Driving meaningful change is becoming more and more feasible now that retailers have access to new technology that can help put scalable solutions in place in cost-effective ways. And although tackling sustainability may seem daunting, it doesn’t require a reimagining of the entire value chain. Companies can start where they are by choosing one part of the process and looking at it through a more environmentally friendly lens: “How can we make this aspect of our business just 1% more sustainable today than it was yesterday?” With that alone, companies can begin to make positive changes much faster than they think.

Purpose beyond profit

When it comes to sustainability, today’s consumers want to know that a company has priorities beyond profit. Prioritizing sustainable outcomes that are good for the planet and good for business will help organizations foster more meaningful relationships with their customers, connect more authentically, and create trust through greater transparency.

84% of leaders agree that both their organizations and the global economy can continue to grow while also making real progress in achieving climate change goals  Deloitte’s 2023 CxO Sustainability Report.

The good news is that leaders are optimistic about the future—of our wardrobes, of the retail industry, and of its commitment to sustainability. By investing in and adopting new tech enabled tools and solutions, companies can drive sustainability faster and with much more ease, leading to ROI all around: happier customers, growth in revenue, and a greener planet for all to enjoy.

Explore the report

The paper dives into solutions that can help your company start achieving its sustainability goals today. Visit our WRC website to reflect on the exciting panels, presentations, and discussions on how we as an industry are pushing the envelope on sustainability.

If you’d like more information or want to discuss how your organization can become more planet-friendly, please get in touch. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you.

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