- One of the retail industry's largest trade groups outlined a five-pronged set of "climate priorities" outlining the relationship among retailers, the environment and government policy.
- In a recent report, the Retail Industry Leaders Association listed transportation, facilities, clean energy and waste as key areas where retailers might adjust operationally based on policy and industry-driven environmental impact efforts.
- RILA highlighted other actions and policies that could have an impact across the industry, including "net zero" emissions targets, international climate agreements, carbon pricing, and agricultural and forestry programs.
Retail's economic and environmental footprint is sprawling. From supply chains to stores, the industry consumes energy, land and other resources.
Retail has a broad impact on the environment and vice versa. Climate change presents numerous challenges for the industry, including operational disruptions from extreme weather events and difficulties in demand forecasting, among many others. In the nearer term, consumers have demanded more action from brands on reducing the environmental impacts of their business.
In an earlier report this year, RILA pointed to consumers increasing focus on social responsibility as an imperative that will shape the industry in 2021 and beyond. That report found that a large share of consumers by spending power are willing to pay more for products with the least environmental impact.
Change can present costs and difficulties, of course. The recent report from RILA — whose members include retail heavyweights like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot, among others — balanced both operational impacts to retailers from environmental policies as well as opportunities for governments and industry to work together.
For example, the report notes that policies around waste reduction "pair well with other retail sustainability priorities, like increased use of recycled content, pollution prevention, and pursuing circular product business models."
"Responding to the economic and moral imperatives of addressing climate change requires thoughtful and meaningful action," Michael Hanson, senior executive vice president of public affairs, said in a statement. "Leading retailers know the intricacies of navigating complex relationships and operational realities in the pursuit of sustainability. The retail industry is an ally in the fight against climate change and stands ready to partner with policymakers and provide constructive insights as we work towards achievable goals."
RILA's report follows a letter signed by 47 companies, including Walmart and Amazon, asking the President and Congress to address climate change. As retailers try to tackle issues on their own and enjoy the branding bump that comes with it, some initiatives have come under regulatory, legal and consumer scrutiny for the environment-friendly claims they make.