"Going Green" is nothing new to retailers. What started as a grassroots movement has amassed an international following, facilitated numerous summits and roundtables, inspired the work of countless non-profits, and infiltrated nearly every place we live, work, and play. Rightfully so. 

 

 

When most retailers think about a green strategy, they look for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. They may decide to go paperless, hire an energy consultant, switch to safer cleaning products, ban plastic bags, or encourage rewards for commuting. They may also consider green contributors during product development and packaging, material sourcing, and expect sustainable measures to be taken in their supply chains.

All necessary and good things.

But, how much time is spent integrating their green initiatives into retail design, construction, displays, and store fixtures? In our experience, we’ve seen many retailers carrying products on their shelves that tout best in class environmental standards...but the way those products were transported to the store, what they are being displayed on, and how those displays were produced are talking points that often get shoved under the rug.

Retailers and brands concerned with end-to-end sustainable business practices - that are committed to the betterment of environmental, social, and economic conditions for all -  may need to take a step back and apply some of the same standards to retail vendors as they would their supply chains, employees, or day-to-day store operations.

 
 

What to Look for in a
Sustainable Vendor:

1. Aligned Green Initiative and Company Culture
2. Materials & Material Sourcing
3. Manufacturing Processes
4. Logistics and Transportation
5. Re-purposing/End-of-Life

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1. Green Initiative and Company Culture

Work with a company that is transparent in their practices - one that enhances, rather than detracts, from your company's mission. Read through their sustainability statements and ask how they are achieved. Make sure you understand how their commitment to this cause impacts the quality, speed, and cost of their products and services.


 
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2. Materials & Material Sourcing

Each retail project requires the use of different materials. From lumber to paint, plastic to sheet metal, make sure you understand how your vendor’s materials are being sourced and produced. Inquire to see if the vendor offers a standard sustainable line of materials and products. Judge their willingness to go above and beyond to seek out green options for specific materials required for your unique project.

Additionally, be sure to work with a seasoned packaging engineer skilled in creating packaging that protects product components while utilizing the least amount of materials. Too often, packaging is the last phase of planning. Engaging a packaging engineer early on allows for adequate time to test and tweak the overall design. Always make sure that engineer, or your retail vendor, is able to source eco-friendly outer and inner pack materials for your displays and fixtures as well.


 
 

3. Manufacturing Processes

It’s long been a belief that being “green” is inherently more expensive. Though true in some cases, time and time again, green material premiums can be offset by wicked smart manufacturing processes that create near zero waste.

Axis Display Group uses a system known as Green Manufacturing Principles (GPM) to guide decisions made at this stage of program development. These are the tried and true, sound green strategies Axis developed and adheres to so sustainable manufacturing processes are at the forefront of every project. Using a structure such as this minimizes environmental impact, maximizes productivity, and substantially reduces overall project cost. Contact Neil to learn more about this process and to see past projects utilizing the GMP Process.


 
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4. Logistics and Transportation

Some of the biggest gains in reducing the impact our industry has on the environment can be made through efficient transportation methods. Oddly enough, if the appropriate actions are taken to lessen CO2 emissions caused from moving goods and services, overall project costs are reduced as well. Partnering with a freight company that is committed to this cause is a great start, but here are a few additional ways retail vendors can assist in the effort:

  • Avoid cross-continental shipment of assembled displays and fixtures.  If a vendor ships fully assembled product from L.A. to New York, that is not being a good steward of the environment.  Instead, look for vendors that consolidate unassembled product in regional locations that can be assembled before shipment to their final destination or at the store level.
  • Optimize space by being strategic in how trailers and containers are loaded. Ensure your retail vendor can fill every trailer to capacity or peak efficiency to meet tight roll-out schedules. They should use one the many softwares available today to help organize and streamline this process. In the world of logistics management, “air is money,” and by gaining maximum load capacities, the overall program costs can be lowered.

Elizabeth Fretheim, Walmart’s Director of Business Strategy & Sustainability, sums it up best in an interview with Inbound Logistics: “Within the transportation function...we want to accomplish three goals: fill every trailer to capacity; drive those trailers the fewest miles possible; and use the most efficient equipment. All these efforts drive sustainability, as well as operational efficiency.”


 
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5. Re-purposing/End-of-Life

When it's time to update your retail program, consider what existing materials and components can be repurposed or reused in the new program.  Many times, a current program can get a dramatic facelift by being smart and creative about incorporating as many existing components into the new design.  

For those components that are not fortunate enough to make it into the new program, we find that educating the store associates on how to properly dispose of the material goes a long way.  As a part of the installation and merchandising instructions, we always include guidance on how to dispose of the current program or unused parts.

Reducing the amount of product that ends up in a dumpster makes perfect ECOnomical sense.


To illustrate how this relationship could work, we’d like to share with you the process we took to work with Bambeco, a premier sustainable producer of eco-friendly home and garden goods.

To see how these efforts can enhance your own project's commitment to sustainability, contact Axis Display Group to discuss your concerns.