As businesses are looking to improve their sustainability and lessen their impact upon the environment, retailers are changing the way we shop. Customers are praising ethics behind their purchases and denouncing those that fail to meet certain standards. Many green initiatives, such remove plastic bags or exchanging them for biodegradable alternatives, are already commonplace with more certain to become widespread.

A fundamental part of retail is consumption. However, this does not always necessitate single-use items or disposable packaging. Whereas previous little attention was given to items that served a purpose only once before their disposal, now it is in the spotlight. Coffee shops are criticised for freely offering disposable cups and retailers are shunned for excessive and unnecessary packaging.

In turn, customers are switching to businesses that openly pride themselves on ethics and sustainability. While a minority claims that a cost on disposables, such as plastic bags and throw away coffee cups, is anti-consumer, the majority of people are receptive to greener business practices. Sales of reusable items have grown substantially in recent years and now a reusable flask and tote bag are ubiquitous with shoppers.

It is not only stock items that are being pressured into sustainable supply. Wasteful supplements like plastic straws, branded bric-a-brac, and utensils have slowly been removed from pop-up events and shops, with attention already turning to the equipment and shop shelving. Instead of purchasing such equipment and retailware solely for an event, more companies are hiring. Not only is this more cost-effective, but the items and furniture are likely to see far more use, used in many events, than if purchased outright.

Zero waste is the goal in many retailer’s minds but the act alone is not always enough. Customers want to see the changes in action. This is not only to affirm that companies are being socially and environmentally responsible but also for their own identity. The social support for environmentalism extends to individuals. As such, customers want to be seen as associating and supporting businesses that demonstrate good morals.

For example, bags for life by their design are to be reused. Branding bags and totes are a form of good advertising since customers are ensured to reuse them, showcasing a brand more often. Compared to a single-use product that will quickly end up in the trash, this is far more preferable.

It would be risky to call environmentalism as a trend since it is fundamentally understood that our climate is changing. As such, these steady shifts in business and retail conscientiousness are unlikely to reverse. Instead, green practises will become standardised at every level.

Retailers who are adapting their practices now are far more likely to see longevity in their sales and loyal custom. While some see the endeavour as costly, evidence demonstrates that customers are more willing to support businesses that fit with their ethics. Plastic-free shops are a prime example and they are continuing to appear in cities all over the UK. Retailers that don’t make an effort to adapt, will likely be left behind.