The 2013 Retail Sustainability Conference, hosted by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) opened this morning in Orlando, FL. The sixth annual meeting connects industry executives with their peers to discuss emerging trends and successful strategies for improving the environmental performance—and long-term financial health—of the industry.
Mike Ward, President of IKEA US, kicked-off the conference, delivering a keynote address highlighting a new sustainability-centric strategy adopted by IKEA to drive innovation and cultivate new opportunities, while offering insights from his 20-plus years of experience as a leader in the retail industry.
“At IKEA, sustainability is at our core,” stated Mike Ward, IKEA US president. “We want our business to have a positive impact on the world. Our new strategy, ‘People and Planet Positive,’ was created for us to realize our full potential and help people live a sustainable, affordable life at home. Developing sustainable business models is essential to making this happen.”
Later, attendees had the opportunity to attend several panel discussions on current challenges and emerging trends in sustainability, including a panel discussion focused on the effects that new SEC regulations on conflict minerals would have on retailers. In the afternoon, one session featured a panel with executives from UL, IKEA and H-E-B moderating a discussion on the definition and challenges of zero waste initiatives.
The first day closed with an enlightening presentation by actress and environmental activist Anabelle Gurwitch. Ms. Gurwitch, who recently hosted a show on Planet Green that focused on bringing sustainable practices inside the home, blended her humor and personality with the serious topic of climate change to advocate for a renewed push for corporate citizenship.
Other sessions included: Environmental Law 202: The Policy Front, Using Collaborations to Improve Communications and Recycling, and Innovations in Compliance.
“The Retail Sustainability Conference provides executives with the opportunity to reflect on the value of sustainability initiatives within the retail industry,” said Adam Siegel, Vice President of Sustainability and Retail Operations for RILA. “The direction of the sustainability conversation changes rapidly and events such as this facilitate discussions that will shape the future of the industry.”
RILA is the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.