93 percent of UK retailers say sustainability is a focus for the year ahead

The pandemic, Brexit and the rise in National Insurance listed as current challenges for small retail businesses

Despite facing challenges from the pandemic, Brexit and the rise in National Insurance in the UK, 93 percent of small retailers will be making sustainability a focus for the next 12 months. 59 percent of businesses went as far as to say it’s a ‘big focus’ for the year ahead.

The survey of 565 UK-based retailers was carried out by Creoate, the UK-based B2B marketplace, to assess their stance on current issues, challenges and priorities.

When asked how they would be making their business more sustainable, the most popular response from retailers was by ‘choosing products which are more sustainable/eco-friendly’ (84 percent), followed by ‘stocking more local products’ (68 percent), and ‘reviewing [their] own packaging/bags’ (64 percent).

Credit: Creoate

The retailers surveyed who selected ‘other’ (4 percent) had some interesting suggestions for what they’re doing to make their business more sustainable; from considering how they travel to work, to planting a tree for every purchase.

Hannah Whitfield from Creoate says the results from the survey show clearly show that a small business-heavy economy is a positive thing for our planet.

“When asked why sustainability was a focus for these businesses, the answers were touching, and often conveyed a huge amount of passion and commitment, with sustainability at the very heart of their mission. While larger retailers become more sustainable because of external pressure, for newer, smaller businesses, it seems sustainability is often baked in from day one.” says Hannah.

‘Sustainability is at the core of my business. We are the only children’s store in the UK to be Planet Mark certified, meaning we report our carbon data year on year with a commitment to reduce our impact.’

– The response from one survey participant

It’s clear from the survey that small retail businesses still have a lot to contend with. For those who had experienced business life pre-pandemic, 48 percent said they were still feeling the negative impact in their business today. 41 percent of retailers with brick and mortar stores said they experience less footfall now as a result of increased working from home, and hybrid working patterns.

Even more of an issue was Brexit, with 42 percent of surveyed businesses saying this was their ‘biggest current challenge’. 37 percent are also ‘somewhat concerned’ about the future raise to National Insurance.

The survey results in summary:

  • 93 percent of UK retailers say sustainability is either a ‘focus’ or ‘a big focus’ for the next 12 months.
  • This is despite concerns over NI rises, wfh-related loss of footfall, and Brexit presenting the ‘biggest challenge’ to 42 percent of retailers currently.
  • The most popular method of becoming more sustainable was to stock ‘more eco-friendly/sustainable products’, second to ‘stocking more local products’.
  • 43 percent of respondents had been in business for less than a year, and 93 percent have five full-time employees or fewer.
UK indie retailers are leading the way in sustainability. Infographic from Creoate
UK indie retailers are leading the way in sustainability. Credit: Creoate

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Charli Ferrand Higgins

After a decade working for global and boutique PR and Marketing agencies in Sydney, with clients that included some of the biggest consumer brands in the world, Charli returned to her homeland of the UK in 2017 and decided the time had come to use her professional skills and experience for good. She has since split her time between supporting passionate, purpose-driven small and medium-sized businesses to grow through conscious content marketing, managing and editing the planet-positive content hub Earth Collective (weareearthcollective.com), and hosting the podcast Easy Being Green? Lessons in sustainable business for SMEs.

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