Has the Environmental Agenda in the Retail Industry Faded Away?

7th Jun 2017

Have we become complacent like Trump?

In this post, our Account Director Ben reflects on our own responsibility to tackle climate change within the industry, in response to President Trump withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement.

President Trump may have conveniently forgotten about the environment, but what are we doing in our industry?

In the world of business it's not the wisest thing to offer an opinion that could be seen as political but, the environment seems to transcend political divides with the majority of people in business.

As we know, the world is understandably up in arms with President Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. It seems all the people I've spoken to share this frustration. So, my question is, what are we doing in our industry to lessen the impact of what we do with shop fittings and are we so perfect?

10 years ago environmental concerns were gaining traction within the shop-fitting industry off the back of improving building standards, and the majority of large retailers were pushing their agenda on reducing their carbon footprints and landfill. But after the credit crunch, did a few of them quietly forget their commitments?

M&S have stuck to their 'Plan A' strategy over the last 10 years and are innovative leaders. Recently they launched the next phase of their commitment. In contrast, some retailers lost focus, seeing the environment as expensive when the reality of the crunch took hold, impacting where and how we shop.

Businesses only react to their customers priorities, and as consumers we became more concerned about short-term issues like the pennies in our pocket - and some retailers mirrored our concerns and dropped the eco-warrior status. So manufacturers and designers who had been reacting to the marketplace's needs lost the incentive to progress this agenda, and people quietly forgot about it.

The economic irony in putting environmental issues at the centre of your decision-making is great business, as it can save or even earn you money. Good value engineering is also good for the environment - if done correctly. To prove this point you just need to look at world leaders' response to Donald Trump's withdrawal, and in particular India's and China's commitment to push on without America. Their reaction is based on economics, and the benefits to their large populations.

So what do we do at Quantum4 to earn our green credentials and the right to be so opinionated?

Even though our carpark is not full of Toyota Prius's and we haven't put a deposit down on 10 new Tesla 3's, sustainable development of retail fixtures and fittings has always been at the core of what we do since we started 15 years ago. This is due to our partnership with ecoSmart.

Through ecoSmart, we grade and evaluate the environmental impact of what we develop (as go) and focus on carbon, end-of-life deconstruction, and recyclability of the fixtures we develop. No matter what our clients' corporate and social responsibility policy is, this is part of a standard process and we produce a report every single project.

We consistently find good environmental design saves money as well as the environment, due to the following design principles we tackle every project with:

The Principles

Reuse:Can we reuse what already exists without creating something new?

Use less:Can we reduce the amount of materials used? And if the unit includes lighting and technology, reduce the energy consumed?

Recycle:What is the recycled content of the materials being used, and can we steer the design to materials where they are high in content?

Recyclability:What materials can be cleanly recycled at the end-of-life of the fixture?

Deconstruction:Make sure that the fixture can divide out all the separate materials at the end of life.

The environmental design principles listed here ensure that when the current use is redundant, disposal or reuse can save or even generate financial revenues by avoiding disposal cost and landfill taxes, as well as selling costs on the materials for reprocessing.

With ecoSmart we have pioneered sustainable design in our industry, and M&S now have ecoSmart at the core of their Plan A process to understand the environmental impact of their fixtures. The ecoSmart grading system is an integrated part of the Q4 development software, tracking our progress and informing our decisions.

So what are you doing as retailers, designers, engineers and manufacturers?

The encouraging thing that's happened since the White House's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is that American businesses and individual states are still committing to the process. President Trump's reasoning for pulling out of the agreement was the people of Pittsburgh voted for him, and not the people of Paris.

In an ironic twist, the Mayor of Pittsburgh has committed to investments in green technology, and is encouraging businesses such as Uber to be based there - moving the city's economy away from steel manufacturing, and benefiting Pittsburgh's population in the short to medium-term economically, and long-term environmentally.

New York and California are still committed to their carbon reduction policies, and these two states alone make up the fourth biggest economy in the world. So with this localised positive reaction in the States, and local government and businesses such as Apple and GM contradicting the administrations withdrawal, and the rest the world staying committed - maybe Paris will still work.

Can we all be more like Pittsburgh to improve our industry and benefit future generations but, also creating wealth in the meantime?

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