- The Retail Industry Leaders Association this fall will launch a six-week competition for students to develop ideas that could reshape retail for sustainability in a circular economy, according to a press release.
- The (R)Tech Global Retail Challenge is in collaboration with the Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill University in Montreal and it is sponsored by VF Corp. and Canadian Tire. During a finals weekend, set for Nov. 15-17, the student teams will be judged by representatives of those companies.
- One- to two-person teams from over 90 universities have been invited to work with faculty advisors to find solutions that will engage young consumers in circular economies for retail.
This new program is just one way the retail industry is beginning to prioritize engagement with young people — as customers, future employees and entrepreneurs. The finals of the RILA competition are timed to coincide with the official launch of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management on Nov. 16 and the challenge is the key element in RILA's initiative to create a strong talent pipeline to bolster retail technology, the trade group said.
Over the last year, RILA has rolled out several collaborations with universities to fuel innovation around emerging technologies in retail. Now it's focusing in on an increasingly important issue: sustainability. At a macro level, the industry is beginning to rethink the traditional linear economy of make, use and dispose. And now, it's looking to the next generation to develop retail concepts with sustainability at the core.
Numerous studies, including a survey of students by LIM college professors earlier this year, show that millennials and Gen Z embrace sustainability and believe they will play a part in driving social change. "Nearly 90% of the those surveyed agreed that, ‘Millennials and Gen Z will help create more sustainably produced products by convincing businesses and governments to alter existing practices.'" Robert Conrad, professor and co-author of the survey, told Women's Wear Daily. "An equal percent report they ‘would abandon a product or brand for eco-unfriendliness.’ This sends a clear message to the fashion industry."
Over the last year, many major brands and retailers have begun to implement more sustainable practices. Last year, Nike and H&M joined an initiative to promote and support the circular economy through the Circular Fibres Initiative for textiles. Inditex, parent of Zara, earlier this year also announced that sustainability is one of four pillars of retail. "Simply put, it means embedding the principle of the circular economy into corporate strategy."