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Sustainability trends in retail 2022

Small Business Forecast: Sustainability in Retail 2023

It’s the middle of the year, so it’s time to check in and see how those New Year’s resolutions have panned out so far.

As individuals, we may have resolved to live healthier or spend more time with loved ones—are you living up to your goals? It’s an excellent time for small businesses to review past progress and revise practices as necessary.

So, what’s one smart business goal to keep working towards? Going green (or getting greener) in 2023.

A recent study found two-thirds of all consumers say they consider sustainability when making a purchase. And it’s more than just a personal preference; three in four consumers believe businesses can help reverse climate change by adopting eco-friendly practices. 

If these statistics say anything, it’s that sustainability in the retail industry is more than just a fad – it’s a market shift that’s here to stay. Ready to get ahead of the competition? Here are five trends to set your sights on. 

 

Sustainability In Retail 2023: 5 Trends To Keep An Eye On

1. Ethics at the Center of Brand Identity

While past consumers based their shopping decisions on status or convenience, today’s brand loyalty is driven by shared values. One major consumer retail trend? Ethical business practices. 

Nearly 60% of Americans consider themselves conscious consumers, and 92% say they’re more likely to trust an environmentally or socially-conscious brand. That’s why more and more businesses are placing ethics at the center of their brand identities. 

Toms Shoes, Lush Cosmetics, and Impossible Foods have all built brands around the idea that consumers don’t need to choose between eating well, looking good, and living a pro-planet lifestyle. And major corporations are taking note. Brands like Amazon, Dell, and Apple have all pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.  

So where does a small business owner fit in? Building ethics into your brand identity means getting ahead of local and virtual competition. So, ask yourself: what cause feels most authentic to my business – and how can I champion it? 

Read our Guide to Sustainable Retail to learn more about building an eco-conscious brand.

2. Rise in Sustainable Products

Alongside their growing preference for eco-friendly brands, consumers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly products. Between 2013 and 2018, half of the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sector growth came from sustainability-marketed products. 

Here are the sustainability in retail 2023 trends to look out for: 

  • Sustainably Made: 70% of consumers in the US and Canada would pay 35% more on average for eco-friendly products. These figures will empower more brands to do what it takes to create and offer sustainable items that cater to their customer’s preferences. 
  • Made to Last: In recent years, Green Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Giving Tuesday have risen as mindful alternatives to the compulsive spending of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. Today’s consumers are buying less and spending smarter, and brands are responding by creating higher-quality products that are made to last. 
  • Sustainable Packaging: The COVID-19 pandemic caused a global spike in single-use plastics and packaging waste. As a result, consumer preference for sustainable packaging alternatives has increased dramatically. Consumers are equally interested in recycled/recyclable packaging and biodegradable substitutes – expect global supply chains to follow suit.
     

3. Circular Economy Models 

Historically, products make a beeline from the cradle to the landfill – with only a small period of use in between. But in recent years, brands and consumers have been catching on to the economic and ecological benefits of extending the product life cycle. 

Circular economy models aim to keep products in circulation as long as possible, design out waste and pollution, and “close the loop” by reimagining inefficient systems. 

  • Circular Production: Sustainable production starts at the source, with brands repurposing pollution and industry by-products. As an example. Suavs and Rothy’s create gorgeous footwear from ocean plastic, while Ecovative provides retailers packaging made from farm waste and mushroom roots. 
  • Regenerative Agriculture: Agricultural practices prioritizing soil health and biodiversity have continued growing in 2023. PepsiCo and Walmart (not two of the usual companies that come to mind when one thinks ‘eco-friendly’!) have even announced a $120mm initiative to support regenerative agricultural farmers over the next seven years.
  • Alternative Ownership: Rent the Runway, DePop, and ZipCar are all reimagining ideas of ownership. These models allow consumers to access the clothes and cars they need – when needed – and return these resources to other consumers when they don’t. 

Climate Goals in Action:  In this clip from e.pop’s Youtube series on sustainability, we check in on our journey to plant one million trees by 2025. Joined by like-minded organizations, we’re building new relationships and taking steps not just to go carbon neutral and put plants back where they belong!

4. Green In-Store Experiences

While the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked unprecedented growth in e-commerce, nearly half of consumers still prefer to shop in person. But climate change is shifting what they want from their in-store experience. 

Instead of simply hunting for the best deal, more and more consumers want to visit storefronts that reflect their values. Leverage these 2023 sustainability trends in retail by greening the in-store experience.

  • Sustainable Products: More Americans want eco-friendly products, but nearly three-quarters feel they need to be more confident identifying them on their own. Businesses can lend a helping hand by clearly labeling sustainable items, which makes 78% of consumers more likely to make a purchase. 
  • Waste & Energy: Brick-and-mortar vendors will take steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce waste, showcasing these actions as part of their brand values. They may implement e-receipt solutions like e.pop, which are eco-friendly and zero-waste! 
  • Green Details: Small business owners know – customers notice the little things. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to add a green touch to the in-store experience. Think recycled gift bags, upcycled light fixtures, and even business cards made from old t-shirts (like e.pop’s!).
  • Incentives: Incentivising consumer sustainability creates in-store experiences reflective of brand values. In 2023, expect more retailers to offer discounts, vouchers, and other incentives for bringing their bags or opting for e-receipts. 

5. Climate Reporting and Disclosure

Consumers aren’t just demanding sustainable products and solutions be available to them—they want to know that the companies they choose to support are genuine in their stated mission to fight against global warming.

Businesses and financial institutions are facing increased scrutiny in 2023 regarding greenwashing, or the practice of marketing itself as eco-friendly more than minimizing its environmental impact. Companies that overstate their environmental claims or lie about them entirely have experienced public backlash and, in some cases, even legal action.

Some examples of greenwashing that are drawing greater consumer attention are making vague or unfalsifiable claims, using carbon offsets (without an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint), and lacking transparency or giving misleading information.

Sustainability in Retail 2023: E-Receipts for Small Businesses

e.pop is ushering in a new era of digital receipts, using contactless payments to live more sustainably and efficiently. Learn more about our mission to help merchants connect digitally with their customers – and sign up today to get your first year free!

Join the Fight Against Climate Change

and much more. Get retail tips, trends and news! Be part of the e.pop merchant community!

Marley Flueger

Marley Flueger

Freelance sustainability writer working to demystify the climate crisis, connect people with tools for lighter living, and create pathways for us all to push the needle towards a fossil fuel-free and equitable future.

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