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The Retail industry and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In much of the world, and Spain is no exception, the retail industry, as an active and productive portion of the country, has always been committed to promoting economic, social, and, of course, environmental sustainability through practices that go hand in hand with the SDGs.

The retail industry plays a leading role in the national economy, not only due to its contribution to economic activity but also because of its significant social contributions and the territorial importance it represents.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - Optima Retail
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Particularly, retailers have faced significant challenges and have been heavily impacted by the global pandemic, stemming from the subsequent lockdowns and mobility restrictions as containment and prevention measures.

These vicissitudes and abrupt changes have been a catalyst for retail and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to intersect, fostering innovative commerce styles and serving as inspiration for new ideas and technologies.

In this sense, proposals developed from the SDGs serve as a reference framework for companies of any kind, including retailers.

What are the SDgs?

SDGs stands for Sustainable Development Goals and refers to 17 objectives aimed at improving certain developmental activities on the planet. These objectives, totaling 17, were approved in 2015 within the United Nations, with a 15-year implementation period.

By 2030, the review of these goals will help determine whether there has been the capacity to combat some of the scourges and problems facing the planet for a long time or not. These goals involve all members of society, and especially the commercial sector.

The plastic in supermarkets - Optima Retail
The plastic in supermarkets

Stating that commerce has a great responsibility in sustainable development is based on four premises:

  • Its contribution to regional economies

  • Job creation

  • Stability of workers

  • Being a pillar of society as a guarantor of supply, population settler, environmental conservator, and social activist

Retail and the Sustainable Development Goals

The commercial sector industries that can have the most impact regarding the SDGs are retail and those related to goods and services, as affirmed by an analysis by Accenture, "Delivering on the promise of sustainability." Additionally, agriculture and food industries contribute to these sectors.

The most valued aspects, in which retail is directly involved, include:

  • Conscious and responsible production and consumption

  • Economic development

  • Equitable job opportunities

One might wonder: how can retail drive the SDGs? We can address three fundamental aspects that answer this question:

1. Considerable reduction of carbon footprint per activity

Increasing the use of clean or renewable energy, implementing a culture of recycling, and utilizing byproducts, whether from their own industry or others, can help retail industries reduce waste and make use of certain materials. Conscious water use and recycling in production, as well as maintaining low inventory levels, are also important.

2. Implementation of the circular model in business

The circular model is based on a simple cycle of activities that some call the four "Rs": reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle. These activities should be repeated continuously and sustain the model as a sustainable fact.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - Optima Retail
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

3. Strengthening value chains

Retail has always involved a vast conglomerate of people working and consuming. Integrating its workforce considering inclusion and diversity will improve productivity and contribute to the humanization of processes.

Some adoptable measures among many include:

  • Embracing equal opportunity policies, focusing on improving the role of women and youth inclusion.

  • Enhancing training and educational opportunities.

  • Gender equity in terms of numbers and activities.

Retail Companies and the SDGs: What Does the Future Hold?

The issue of sustainability is no longer limited to a few. Sustainability has become a genuine concern, especially for the consuming public, which demands solutions from companies, as evidenced by global events such as the World Retail Congress.

At this congress, it became clear that 80% of consumers worldwide are more concerned today about industries that do everything better than those that merely strive not to do it wrong.

Material recycling and their benefits - Optima Retail
Material recycling and their benefits

It seems that this consumer outcry aligns perfectly with the SDGs and with some global purposes of retailers, and it has to do with responding to consumers' relentless demands while ensuring the business's longevity and development in the medium term.

Some of these fundamental aspects include:

  • Considering material recycling as an economic and ecological advantage.

  • Greater efficiency in resource and energy use.

  • Sustainability as a premise of any business.

  • Drastically reducing the use of non-biodegradable plastics or synthetic derivatives..

In the end, it can be said that what started as a recycling experience or simple donations has now become a business philosophy, where economics is not the only important factor: brands are more self-critical and are making serious attempts to make their activities more sustainable and responsible.

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