The 2014 Retail Sustainability Conference opened this morning with a keynote address from Best Buy Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly focusing on the changes he is seeing in the retail environment and his vision for the industry’s future.
The seventh annual conference—which is run by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and attracts more than 80 of the largest retail brands—connects industry executives with their peers to discuss emerging trends and successful strategies for strategically reducing the environmental impact of the industry. This year, based on the theme of the future of retail, the event features a new format designed to drive discussion on issues impacting retailers now and those that will affect it in the future.
During his keynote, Best Buy Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly discussed the importance of sustainability in retail and how Best Buy is embracing that. The retailer has recycled more than 1 billion pounds of consumer electronics and large appliances since 2009 and aims to recycle an additional 2 billion pounds by 2020.
"Sustainability cannot and should not be an afterthought or a PR focused approach," Joly said. "Sustainability must be an essential element of everything the company does."
RILA’s partner, sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future, followed up the address with the unveiling of the Retail Horizons project, a year-long collaborative work which is designed to support the industry’s drive to sustainability. Retail Horizons provides retailers with the tools they need to take action to safeguard their future, protect our environment, and improve the lives of their customers, workers, and suppliers.
“We treat 2025 or 2030 as though they were just around the corner — and encourage our partners to do the same, so that they can take meaningful action to ensure a viable, thriving long-term future for themselves and their industries,”says Helen Clarkson, Director, Forum for the Future US. “Retail in the US already has been undergoing huge shifts in recent years. The shift to online and mobile commerce, peer-to-peer networking, the rise of sharing models, the makers movement: are these here to stay, or just passing fads? We strongly encourage retailers to use the Retail Horizons toolkit to find out what these trends might mean for them and how they might help or hinder their long-term success,”Clarkson concluded.
Sponsored by Target and Unilever, Retail Horizons is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between retail and consumer product brands. It includes several deliverables, the most notable of which is a toolkit that can help retailers to identify new ideas and source sustainable innovations.
“At Target, we believe investing in the ongoing well-being of our guests, team, shareholders and communities is the ultimate definition of a sustainable business,” said Kate Heiny, senior group manager, Sustainability, Target. “Today’s Sustainability Conference and our participation in Retail Horizons reinforces our belief in the importance of collaboration across the industry as we focus on driving innovation around sustainability at Target.”
“Unilever has long used futures thinking and scenario tools to help us as we plan for the future. We are able to identify risks and opportunities, which ultimately assists our organization in developing growth strategies and inspires innovation. This project has deepened our understanding of the futures thinking process and will enable us to move forward with sharper focus and purpose,”said Jonathan Atwood, Vice President, Unilever, Sustainable Living and Corporate Communications, North America.
More than 50 retail and consumer product brands participated in Retail Horizons. Some provided leadership and direction; others lent their expertise about retail, sustainability and other key trends. CVS and Sears co-chaired the effort.
“Sears was glad to be one of the co-chairs in the leadership team for this project. In that role, we were able to provide guidance and learn from the breadth of companies involved,” said Todd Troldahl, Division Vice President Sustainability/Green Leadership and Packaging/Floor Ready Services. “This project is the result of a year-long collaboration. It began by identifying the trends that are driving change in the industry, then building stories of the industry’s potential futures, and finally creating a toolkit to make our findings actionable and help align environmental and social impacts with the operational excellence of our business.”
“At CVS Health, sustainability is innovation—innovation that helps people on their path to better health, which includes having a healthy community. The Retail Horizons project is an invaluable way for retailers to engage in conversation to drive new innovations and identify those that may work, given an uncertain future. I am excited about the work completed, and the work yet to be done,” said Pat Perry, director at CVS Health.
“Lowe’s has been a part of RILA’s Retail Sustainability Initiative from its beginning eight years ago. This community provides a great opportunity to exchange ideas with peers and to continue advancing our sustainability program,” said Michael Chenard, Lowe’s director of corporate sustainability. “Lowe's understands we have an opportunity to stay ahead of changing customer expectations, and the Retail Horizons program has provided us with a crucial tool to align our sustainability and innovation efforts with the industry’s direction.”
“The Retail Horizons program and the associated toolkit will provide sustainability executives with an opportunity to inspire cross-disciplinary conversations about the future of the industry and chart a course for how brands can capitalize on these changes to continue to meet consumer demand,” said Adam Siegel, Vice President of Sustainability and Compliance for RILA.
Following the launch, attendees were invited to get to grips with the Retail Horizons toolkit, exploring one of four future scenarios to practice using the toolkit and develop “future-proof” strategies for their own organizations.
Additionally, the conference features several short, high-energy “microsessions.” These are based on a range of thought-provoking topics, providing opportunities to hear from thought leaders.
“We believe that when we couple a product like the Retail Horizons project with the best-in-class programming featured each year at this conference, amplified with the addition of micro-sessions, our attendees are primed to make real progress on the sustainability challenges facing the industry, raising the bar for all retailers. It is a special privilege to put this event together and to set the stage for meaningful conversation aimed at meeting the future with open arms,”Siegel continued.
About the Retail Industry Leaders Association
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is the trade association for 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.
RILA’s Retail Sustainability Initiative (RSI) engages retail sustainability executives to share practices, develop new processes, and communicate their efforts to the industry’s most crucial stakeholders. RILA uses its annual conference, benchmark studies, collaborative partnerships, and research on behalf of retail sustainability interests to help our members learn and develop their programs.
About Forum for the Future
Forum for the Future is an independent non-profit that works globally with business, government and others to solve complex sustainability challenges. We believe it is critical to transform the key systems we rely on to shape a brighter future and innovate for long-term success.
We have a 18-year track record of working in partnership with pioneering partners; advising and challenging organizations such as Unilever, Pepsico, Skanska, Akzo Nobel and Telefonica O2.
Find out more at http://www.forumforthefuture.org/ and find us on Facebook and Twitter.