When it comes to being “green” the retail industry’s mood and temperament are driven by the fact that sustainability begins with customers who want eco-friendly products at affordable prices. The most reliable way to create sustainable products is by incorporating “green” in each stage of the product’s development.
But in today’s business landscape it’s not enough to be green—it’s important to be “clean” as well. For organizations to achieve this goal in both operations and marketing, it is imperative to find the right balance between social, economic and environmental pursuits. Sustainability today has become an indispensable part of the industry’s core business practices and competitive positioning.
The perception shift
One retail giant leading the sustainability brigade is Walmart, which adopted its “Sustainability 360” approach in which it engaged its associates, suppliers and communities to produce and deliver sustainable products. In another scenario, the Outdoor Industry Association designed Eco Index, an environmental assessment tool to boost sustainability practices. Through this tool, companies can benchmark and measure their environmental footprint throughout the supply chain, which helps them make informed sourcing and product lifecycle decisions and identify areas for improvement.
Concerns related to the environment are apparent in the eco-conscious marketplace. Products championing sustainable consumption are becoming extremely popular in the market. Their message of protecting the environment for future generations is reaching the consumers. Over the years, a majority of consumers have realized that their purchasing behavior has a direct impact on the environment they live in and are therefore thinking about the issues that affect the environment while making purchasing decisions. As evident from the below survey, around 54 percent of consumers have sustainability in their mind when shopping.
Additionally, consumers are paying attention to the information provided by the brands on product packaging regarding the environmental friendliness of their product. Consumers feel that they are doing their part to protect the environment by buying sustainable products.
The growing number of individuals who are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products proves that an increasing number of consumers favor sustainable products. Today, consumers are more aware and forward-looking in their buying behavior.
In developed countries, as the economic engine evolved from being production-led to consumption-driven, suppliers and retailers had to find a niche for themselves to grow both in size and numbers. In this scenario, sustainable products present enormous opportunities to the retailers, along with the challenges that ensue. There are opportunities in having a competitive advantage over others and there are challenges in producing sustainable products at affordable prices. Moreover, softlines, hardlines and footwear manufacturers and private-label retailers have to comply with stiff regulatory compliance and changing customer preferences.
To ensure truly clean and sustainable goods and not just a “greenwashed” product, every stage of product development needs to be sustainably planned and monitored. And there are a number of critical actions that manufacturers need to take to ensure sustainability throughout the product lifecycle.
The role of PLM
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) can play a vital role in driving the sustainability benchmarks in Request for Application (RFA) environments. By design, PLM provides an excellent platform to collaborate important information related to the materials used, packaging and compliance that can be integrated in product development. PLM also can be effectively used to monitor and improve the green governing factors in the product development phase, especially those that directly impact our environment. The industry is looking at PLM to integrate green practices in the product development phase by making the information available for taking the greener decisions. PLM can help drive sustainability in the various stages of product development.