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Retailing with a purpose isn’t new to CEO Chieh Huang’s company, Boxed.
The New York-based digital grocer, which said in June that it would go public in a transaction that will value the company at about $900 million, has always seen itself as an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-focused food retailer since its founding in 2013.
Huang recently explained that his company’s idea of ESG stewardship is to ship groceries in a single box from one fulfillment center, thereby reducing its carbon footprint. Another factor that makes Boxed an ESG-focused company, Huang said, is that in its corporate office, a majority of its employees identify as minorities. The vertically integrated retailer is also all “locally grown,” from its customer-facing front end to its proprietary technology to its highly automated replenishment operation.
Boxed is just one example of how food retailers have graduated from terms such as corporate social responsibility and sustainability to the newer ESG and what’s now called “regenerative retailing.”
As the world enters the post-pandemic era, everything has changed, including the grocery shopper and why they choose to shop with one retailer over another (hint: It’s not just price or assortment). To appeal to this new consumer, companies such as Boxed, Walmart and other food retailers are increasingly seeing themselves as purpose-driven, regenerative retailers offering products and services that reflect demands for environmental, social and individual activism. More consumers than ever before want to understand how retailers will lead the way on healing not just the planet, but also societal problems.