RILA Issues First-ever Industry-wide Sustainability Report

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has released the first-of-its-kind industry-wide Retail Sustainability Report, which highlights the leadership role retailers have taken in this areas, as well as discussing the effect of retail on the environment, society and the community.

“As one of the leading industries to embrace sustainability, it is becoming a core consideration for the retail industry,” noted Adam Siegel, VP of sustainability and retail operations at Arlington, Va.-based RILA. “Retailers are working to incorporate sustainability into their strategy, operations, workforce engagement, and connection to consumers and communities.”

Added Ted Howes, director of advisory services for Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), which has U.S. offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington, and was a major partner in the report’s development: “RILA’s first sustainability report is an important step forward for the retail industry. Our hope is that RILA’s efforts will inspire retailers around the globe to take action and engage in sustainability more deeply and strategically -- to ensure a healthier bottom line as well as a healthier planet.”

According to Siegel, the report is “a first look at the broader industry’s accomplishments, challenges, and future directions,” and “lays a foundation to determine where we can go from here.”

For the past few years, RILA has offered resources to facilitate sustainability activities within the retail industry. The broader objective of the report is to provide the retailers and those they serve with ways to approach sustainability through articulating the key issues, anticipating future trends, recognizing challenges and sharing examples of how various retailers are responding.

Data for the report was collected from the 2011 sustainability reports of a representative cross-section of 30 RILA member companies. Information was also gathered via multiple industry surveys, industry meetings and company interviews, across all segments of retail.

As well as highlighting innovative company practices and what the industry can expect in the coming years, the report stresses the important role of other stakeholders, including landlords, municipalities, product manufacturers, transportation providers and customers, in sustainability projects, and how these various groups can work together to achieve common goals.

Key retail sustainability trends identified in the report include working across sectors to attain sustainability goals, shifting sustainability as a cost and risk reduction measure to an opportunity for business growth, developing systems for ongoing improvement, and fostering transparency in operations and in the supply chain.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways from the report is that creating lasting change in retail sustainability is not something the industry can do alone,” observed Siegel. “Retailers are reaching out to nonprofits, academics and governments, as well as to their suppliers, consumers, investors and communities, to provide their diverse perspectives and partnerships and help accelerate sustainable innovation for all.”

RILA is hosting a live Tweetchat on the report, starting today at noon.

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