Benchmarking study of the sustainability maturity of the UK retail industry assessed through the members of the British Retail Consortium

Growing customer awareness of climate change coupled with a desire to make more environmentally conscious purchasing decisions have heightened potential reputational risks for retailers. Meanwhile, increasing regulatory scrutiny over the industry’s environmental and carbon footprint exposes retailers to more pressures.

How well equipped is the UK retail industry to respond to these pressures?

In collaboration with the British Retail Consortium, BearingPoint designed a survey based on our BearingPoint 360 Sustainability Maturity Assessment methodology, to assess the current status of the BRC members’ sustainability maturity.

This has provided an understanding of how sustainable maturity within the UK Retail Industry should be advanced.

42 organisations completed the holistic assessment covering 7 key dimensions: Strategy; Governance & Organisation; Finance: Reporting, Regulatory, Risk; People & Culture; Operations & Supply Chain; Data & Technology; Customer & Stakeholder Centricity.

Retailers report that sustainability is a business driver, but the survey results indicate further internal and external change is required to accelerate progress.

Sustainability can no longer exist as a siloed topic within the business. It requires understanding and buy-in at all levels across every department within an organisation, with employees who are equipped and incentivised to deliver change.

For progression across all dimensions retailers must focus on four key takeaways:

1. Enhancing data and technology capabilities

  • Retailers must invest in technology to drive decision making but there has been a low uptake so far
  • Greater automation and visibility across sustainability metrics will be crucial to inform portfolio decisions, manage external communication, ensure greater regulatory compliance and facilitate supply chain improvements
  • 87% of respondents reported to rely on manual data gathering

2. Integrate quantified risks and long-term ESG macro trends into strategy

  • Retailers must take action to quantify sustainability risks and incorporate longer term ESG macro trends, such as the long-term impact of global warming, into their strategy
  • This will be essential to ensure that their business model is fit for purpose, allow them to achieve their sustainability objectives and ensure that they have the right governance structures in place
  • 43% had not considered the impact of future ESG macro trends (within a 10/20/30 year timeframe) on their organisation’s strategy

3. Collaborating and holding themselves accountable with external stakeholders

  • Retailers should consider involving external stakeholders more effectively to drive progress and accountability
  • More effective stakeholder management can be maintained by actively collecting insights into customer preferences and collaboration with suppliers can drive greater innovation within operations
  • 72% of respondents have criteria to source sustainably but 16% weight this equally with cost/quality

4. Recognise the pivotal role of employees in driving sustainability initiatives

  • Retailers must acknowledge that the success of any sustainability strategy depends on the capabilities of the individuals delivering change
  • Continuous improvement in employee well-being, role-specific sustainability training and KPIs are essential for sustained progress
  • 60% provided no training or merely basic awareness training to employees outside of the core sustainability team

Access the full report to explore the key findings for each dimension and what actions can be taken to achieve success for your business.

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