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Getting Eco-Friendly to Boost Bottom Lines


In boardrooms, supplier meetings, reports and websites, retailers across the country are proclaiming their commitment to, and achievements in, sustainability. Still, the debate continues over who the genuine leaders are, and shoppers are weighing in with their views regarding the most grocery chains.

Every grocery aisle offers an opportunity to put green products in consumers’ hands — and add more green to retailers’ bottom lines — yet many manufacturers and retailers appear to be missing green opportunities. Whether shopping the produce section or dairy case, the dry goods aisle or meat and seafood counters, the personal care or home care shelves, more than half of U.S. grocery shoppers are frustrated. They wish they could buy more environmentally friendly products, but say these items are often unavailable or unaffordable.

Shoppers want it to be easier; one in two says it’s “extremely” or “very important” for grocers to make it simpler to buy eco-friendly products. They want help from their retailers to find and choose eco-friendly grocery products that are convenient, affordable and practical for their lifestyles. This emerging trend creates new opportunities for retailers to engage with their shoppers and add value to the retailer-shopper relationship.

Some of these opportunities are proverbial low-hanging fruit:

Communications: Show your shoppers what your stores are doing — don’t leave the story on your website. In every aisle, share both the small steps and the big ones with your shoppers, your brand partners and your local community. More than one in 10 shoppers have no idea where their retailers stand. Those who are aware typically rate their grocers as “somewhat” eco-friendly at best, or even “not eco-friendly.”

Category Management: When shoppers see eco-friendly brands showcased in your store, they award you “green creds,” seeing you as more eco-friendly while helping them to become so, too. All too often, brands with green credentials wind up in a “green ghetto” or a dark shelf. Feature them — celebrate them! Already, more than one in three grocery shoppers feel retailers should screen the products and brands sold in their stores and offer more eco-friendly choices. And they’re increasingly willing to boycott products when they’ve learned the manufacturer isn’t acting responsibly, either socially or environmentally.

Health: Most shoppers believe a healthier planet means “a healthier me.” Leverage the intersection of health and sustainability to deliver sustainability with personal benefits for your shoppers.

Eco-actions: Help your shoppers make their homes and lifestyles more eco-friendly. Know your shoppers’ priorities and make them yours, too. Clearly, for many shoppers today, their first and foremost challenge is what happens after they’re done with what they buy: It’s about waste. The top three eco-actions grocery shoppers want to take today are limiting the amount of garbage they produce, choosing foods or beverages that are packaged responsibly, and using less plastic.

And the trends are arcing upward, particularly for responsible packaging. Grocery shoppers have already made changes in what they buy because of the type or amount of packaging. Almost three in four grocery shoppers say the most influential commitment a business can make to win their purchase is to reduce waste.

Many have adopted the “reduce, reuse or recycle” mantra as their own when it comes to how they think about waste today, and these attitudes are reflected in how they think about packaging. More than one in two grocery shoppers try to buy products in packaging that’s recyclable, products in refillable or reusable containers or packages, and beverages that use less plastic in their packaging.

But shoppers often find that the choices aren’t easy to make, with many saying they don’t have the information they need to make the right choices. In fact, shoppers are more likely today than three years ago to say it’s hard to figure out what choices to make. They need retailers that can be trusted to help make eco-friendly choices easy.

Remember that shoppers consider the most sustainable retailers to be the ones that help them to make their own homes and lifestyles more eco-friendly. Recognize that, and help them with creative ways to take the eco-actions that are on their shopping lists.

When they see you making it easier for them to make the eco-friendly choices that matter most to your shoppers, you’ll see more green in your own bottom line.