Consumers are increasingly pushing for sustainable business practices in retail, driving businesses to reassess what they produce — and how. From ingredient upcycling to plastic alternatives to smart trash cans, we look at the technologies placing sustainability at the center of retail products and processes.
It’s no secret that industries in the retail sector are some of the most wasteful and polluting in the world. The fashion industry, for example, generates over 92M metric tons of waste every year. Meanwhile, global food waste totals around 1.6B metric tons.
Consumers are increasingly demanding change. Fifty-two percent of textile industry experts say consumers are driving the heightened focus on sustainability in fashion, which includes more transparent supply chains, alternative materials, and secondhand shopping. Similarly, 65% of consumers say they want food products that are sustainable, from alternative proteins to compostable packaging.
Regulatory agencies are also driving the shift to a circular economy focused on waste reduction. For example, the European Union is creating a strategy for sustainable textiles that aims to create products that are more durable, reusable, recyclable, and energy-efficient. It’s set to be adopted in early 2022. In the US, President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021 directing federal institutions to draft regulations that protect the consumer’s right to repair electronic devices and other tools. This could reduce electrical waste and lengthen product life cycles.
The shift to a circular economy will doubtlessly pose major challenges for retailers, but it’s also a massive opportunity — and new tech solutions are emerging all the time to make the transition easier. From resale platforms to regenerative farming to autonomous delivery vehicles, we examine how technology is shaping the future of sustainable retail.
White-label solutions in the rental space allow brands to easily set up their own renting operations. For instance, Paris-based Lizee allows brands to enter the circular economy by renting (or reselling) their inventory. The company, which has worked with the likes of Adidas and Decathlon, helps power all the logistics associated with resale or rental operations.
An innovative solution for single-use plastic packaging comes from Chile-based Algramo. Its circular platform allows users to purchase bottles for cleaning products, refill them in a store with a smart Algramo dispenser, and pay for the product using an app. In 2020, the company launched in the US by installing dispensers in vending machines around New York City.
On a global scale, manufacturers can resell deadstock fabrics on the online marketplace Queen of Raw. To date, the platform has supported 325,000 buyers and sellers around the world, boasting partnerships with brands such as H&M and LVMH.