Click on a category on the right to read a summary of the case studies in that area
Customer Education and Marketing
The case studies in the 'Customer Education and Marketing' best practice area of the Greening Retail database help to answer three questions: What are some of the ways retailers are letting their customers know what green initiatives they are undertaking? How are retailers helping customers make choices about products based on the environmental effects throughout their lifecycle? And finally: How are retailers encouraging customers to think about the steps they can take to lessen the negative environmental impacts of their actions?
Breadth of Practice
There are multiple venues for retailers to get their environmental messages across. Web sites are a popular way for retailers to let people know about their environmental initiatives, about the green products they sell, or about environmental issues. Publications such as catalogues or newsletters are also being used to reach consumers. In-store methods include posters, specially-marked labels on products, training sales associates, and in-store demonstrations. Special incentives and disincentives can be used for encouraging practices: in the Greening Retail database, the majority of case studies for this method pertain to reusing shopping bags.
Related to incentives is the use of free merchandise to encourage customers to try a certain green product. In the database, five of these case studies pertain to free energy-saving light bulbs, and the other is regarding reusable bags.
Often, marketing and education initiatives are carried out in partnership with other organizations, and four of the case studies in the database tell about these partnerships. Partnerships may revolve around a special event in the community, as in two of the case studies in the database.
Retailers are aware of the necessity of good community relations: one case study describes the community dialogue that a retailer holds even before a store is built. Listening to and getting a sense of the public sentiment regarding environmental issues is key to formulating an environmental strategy, whether it's simply a box to solicit customer feedback, or formal market research.
Retailers often implement multi-strategy campaigns regarding particular issues: three of the case studies in the database describe these promotions.
Gaining recognition from outside media - newspapers, television, blogs and so on - helps get retailers' messages out, and the database describes how one retailer (Delhaize) uses active communication with the press to do this.
The following table summarizes the types of practices found in the Greening Retail best practice database that pertain to customer education and marketing and includes the number of companies for which this practice is described in the database.
Web sites are an important venue for all types of environmental communications: they can let people know about a retailer's initiatives, about the green products they sell, or they can educate people about an environmental issue.
ÆON's Eco-Eco Study Center is an ecology web site opened just for young students. As well, Home Depot has created a special website as part of its Eco Options program. The Eco Options site offers environmentally friendly products in five categories; sustainable forestry, energy efficiency, healthy home, clean air and water conservation. In addition, users can calculate the savings benefit of purchasing such items.
Patagonia is the first major apparel manufacturer to track and expose the social and environmental impact of specific garments through The Footprint Chronicles, an interactive website that reveals to consumers the good and the bad involved in manufacturing outdoor clothing such as Synchilla fleece vests and rain shells. In a bold move that might make most companies nervous, Patagonia is determined to be candid and forthright about its impact on the environment and created the site to encourage dialog with its customers who are concerned about the environment.
Printed media are also effective for communicating about environmental issues to customers. Group Casino uses periodic mailings of educational materials about environmental and social responsibility issues to loyal customers.
Office Depot has a dedicated catalogue to help contract customers "buy green," and they also became the first to create multiple language versions around the world.
Kesko's "Plussa Customer Loyalty Program" reaches a total of 1.5 million households in Finland through the distribution of a monthly magazine, which has a monthly article on Kesko's efforts in Sustainable Development.
Posters and Leaflets in Stores
In addition to sending out information to customers, retailers can make it available in their stores. For example, in April 2007, Beidronka launched a successive pro-ecological campaign run by JMD: "Let's Take Care of Our Environment Together", which promotes pro-ecological behaviour. They addressed it to both their employees and their chain's customers. Posters and leaflets explaining how every one of us can protect the environment in a simple way were placed in Biedronka stores. Whole Foods Market's TAKE ACTION CENTERS, located in every store, offer customers a wide variety of information on local, regional, national, and international issues of concern.
Labelling products with information pertaining to the environmental impacts of their life-cycle is a way of communicating to customers in order to help them make purchasing choices. (Case studies regarding labels and product certification are also contained the Green Products best practice area of the Greening Retail database.) For example, Tesco will seek to restrict air transport to less than 1 per cent of their products and will put an aeroplane symbol on all air-freighted products in their stores. Furthermore, Tesco, which produces 2m tonnes of carbon a year in the UK, said it would put new labels on every one of the 70,000 products it sells so that shoppers can compare carbon costs in the same way they can compare salt content and calorie counts.
In 2006, Timberland began putting information on 30 million footwear boxes: by placing a "nutritional label" on every box. This label serves to educate consumers about the product: where it was manufactured, how it was produced, and its effect on the environment.
Wal-Mart Canada launched a "For the Greener Good" logo to flag environmentally preferable products for customers. Phase one of the program identifies Energy Star-rated products. In the first week of the program, CFL light bulb sales increased nearly 30 per cent, supporting Wal-Mart Canada's 2007 goal to sell greater than 10 million higher-efficiency bulbs
M&S has launched a new label which will encourage its customers to help reduce their impact on the environment by lowering their washing temperature to 30?C - saving around 40 per cent energy per wash.
Through Sales Associates
A well-trained sales associate can also inform customers about the environmental benefits of certain products. For example, at The Good Guys Capabala, since establishing a point-of-sale information program, sales of eco-efficient front-loads washing machines have increased by 90 percent, equating to approximately 24 million litres of water saved every year.
Sometimes one-sentence verbal prompts make a difference. Marks & Spencer's Tooting store trialled a one day 'Do you need a carrier bag' campaign late last year and the result was a 30 per cent reduction in the use of carrier bags.
Hold In-Store Demonstrations and Workshops
At times, in-depth information is required, and workshops are a good way to provide it. B&Q, which are home improvement stores of the Kingfisher Group, works in partnership with organizations like the Energy Saving Trust to tell customers about the benefits of energy-saving materials through in-store demonstrations to supplement their product labelling and leaflets. Also on the subject of reducing energy use in homes, Castorama France held a series of workshops which were part of the weekly 'Casto-stages' training courses which take place every Saturday morning. Over 500 people attended the two energy-saving sessions held in September and November 2007. Further sessions were planned for 2008.
The Seiyu, Ltd holds Eco-Niko (Eco-Smile) workshops at stores around the country to introduce environmental and social topics to children. As well, at the Marks & Spencer stands at agricultural shows across the country, customers can meet many of their farmers and growers and sample their fresh food range. Moreover, they are giving customers the chance to meet the farmers who produce M&S's food in some of their bigger stores.
Give Customer Incentives
In many effective social and environmental marketing campaigns, incentives and disincentives are used to effect change. A growing number of retailers are using rewards to reduce the number of bags used by customers. For example, Ito-Yokado held an Eco Stamp campaign to reduce the use of disposable shopping bags. In this campaign, the customer received one stamp ("Eco-Stamp") each time he or she declined to use the disposable shopping bags provided at the cash register. Similarly, Raley's offers customers a 5-cent credit for reusing their large printed grocery bags, which has resulted in millions of bags being reused. Marks & Spencer (M&S) extended its trial of charging 5p for food carrier bags to 33 stores in the South West of England.
As an alternative to cash, some retailers distribute points or discounts on purchases when a customer opts out of taking a bag. In their retail stores in Japan, Office Depot "sells green" by encouraging retail customers to purchase reusable ECO bags for a nominal price. When customers bring their ECO bag back to the store, they receive bonus points in the Office Depot customer loyalty program.
At Tesco, shoppers who re-use bags or alternatives such as shopping trolleys or backpacks earn Green Clubcard points, which can be used to get money off most goods at Tesco or to obtain discounts on a wide range of services and attractions. Furthermore, shoppers who use the bag-free checkout option in Asda stores will be given school vouchers for 'green goodies' as a reward for not using a new plastic bag. Additionally, shoppers who return five used plastic bags to a store to be recycled will receive a free Asda 'bag for life'
The April 8 issue of Newsweek, has a cover that converts into a prepaid envelope for sending Target's plastic shopping bags to Terracycle where they are manufactured into Retotes, the reusable shopping bags sold by the retailer. After the bags were mailed in, readers received a coupon in the mail to receive a free Retote. This was a one-of-a-kind promotion that lets everyone who gets the magazine take part in an environmental program, said Newsweek President Greg Osberg.
Disposable plastic carrier bags were taken off checkouts in Sainsbury's stores. Instead shoppers received a free 'Bag for Life' with their shopping. The retailer estimates it will give away at least seven million free bags.
The Bright Ideas campaign offered every Toronto household two free compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at twelve participating Toronto Home Depot locations. Similarly, Sainsbury's handed out one million energy-saving light bulbs to customers in one day to encourage them to do their bit for the environment. Also, Waitrose gave away one million energy-saving light bulbs a supermarket green initiative.
Give Points for Buying Certain Eco Friendly Products
Tesco made a commitment to promote and incentivise energy efficient products through their Green Clubcard scheme and also extended Green Clubcard points to environmentally friendly products from a wide range of categories, for example organic food, products made from recycled or biodegradable materials and Fairtrade. They also promised to bring down the cost of going green, beginning by halving the price of energy-efficient light bulbs.
Red Light sells recycled clothing, accessories and footwear. They recycle as much waste as possible, including giving away plastic hangers on Craigs List. They are a Green Card Business. Membership to the Green Card program is free and is open to all Seattle Weekly readers. SW Green Card members receive a membership card that entitles them to discounts and/or incentives at participating Green Card businesses.
To reach a larger audience, retailers often implement multi-strategy campaigns that combine many of the strategies listed in this section to get their messages across. For example, the Whole Foods Market's Renewable Energy Outreach Campaign includes brochures for shoppers, a FREE gift card to reward participating customers, employee training, in-store signage, FAQ apron cards for employees, kids' materials (colouring contests and science projects), and check-out isle promotions and model turbines
The Promoting Healthy Lawns campaign takes place at Canadian Tire stores across the country and online at www.canadiantire.ca throughout the spring and summer months. In addition to offering customers the largest selection of eco-friendly solutions, the program also includes extensive staff training and consumer education focused on responsible lawn and garden care. To help provide customers with relevant information, Canadian Tire has created online buying guides, in-store signage and is offering free gardening clinics in select stores in Ontario as well as providing everyday savings on lawn and garden products
Body Shop unveiled a global communications campaign that trumpeted the company's environmental message in a louder way than consumers were used to hearing. It mounted colourful posters on its store walls, touting snappier slogans (Example: "Less packaging. More beautiful.") And it has hired an ad agency to test a smattering of print and billboard ads, a departure from its previous advertising that was produced in-house.
Gaining recognition from outside media - newspapers, television, blogs and so on - helps get retailers' messages out and helps to create good public relations for a company. Among other communications media, Delhaize uses active communication to the press on charity events, environmental efforts and efforts in Sustainable Development in general.
Often, marketing and education initiatives are carried out in partnership with other organizations who have the environmental expertise to contribute to the cause. For instance, B&Q, which are home improvement stores of the Kingfisher Group, works in partnership with organizations like the Energy Saving Trust to tell customers about the benefits of energy-saving materials through product labelling, leaflets and in-store demonstrations.
Expanding its efforts of the previous year, more than 450 Ace Hardware retailers in eight states partnered with General Electric, the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation, Great River Energy, Minnesota Power, and Puget Sound Energy to coordinate an integrated marketing approach for Change a Light, Change the World.
For Earth Day, Macy's has partnered with the National Park Foundation to educate shoppers and raise funding, and its "Turn Over a New Leaf" campaign will promote eco-friendly products and give free tree saplings to shoppers.
Sainsbury's is a partner in 'Love Food Hate Waste', WRAP's (Waste & Resources Action Programme) campaign to tackle food being wasted in UK homes. WRAP has been leading a team, including Sainsbury's, to find out why people in the UK are wasting so much fresh produce, and what can be done about it. In support of the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign, and as part of the research, Sainsbury's is trialling new storage guidance to customers both in-store and on its website. Findings from the research will be shared with all retailers.
It's important to create and maintain good relationships with communities surrounding stores. To do this from the outset, before opening a store in a new location, Royal Ahold holds a formal session to present the new store project to local opinion leaders, such as governmental delegates, local school directors, religious leaders and fire chiefs.
Another method of establishing positive relationships with the community in regards to environmental initiatives is to hold special events. For example, The Timberland Company focused its annual Earth Day efforts on reducing its environmental footprint by hosting more than 9,000 volunteers at 170 service events around the globe.
Solicit Customer Feedback and Market Research
Listening to and getting a sense of the public sentiment regarding environmental issues is key to formulating an environmental strategy. Ito-Yokado places boxes for customers' opinions regarding environmental issues in their store.
Co-op constantly monitors the sustainable consumption market with extensive use of surveys to understand the driving factors behind their customers' sustainable purchasing behaviours.
Wal-Mart has launched a new initiative - the Live Better Index - which it hopes will serve as a measurement of consumer attitudes and shopping behaviours. Wal-Mart has identified five products to serve as nationwide trend indicators for the launch of the Live Better Index. The first focus of this ongoing study is on products and attitudes surrounding environmental issues.
This synopsis was compiled from case studies in the Greening Retail Best Practice Database. Sources for the information in the case studies are cited in the database.
This database contains links to case studies of environmental best practice from retailers around the world. You can search this database by the name of the company only, or you can find case studies that match one or several specific criteria, such as the type of retailer, the type of best practice, the company's country of origin, and/or project return on investment.
Simply select your search criteria in the spaces provided and hit the "search" button to come up with a list of the kinds of case studies you're looking for.
Please note that we cannot include all the practices of every retailer; therefore, the non-inclusion of a company, or of a certain area of practice for a company, does not mean that they do not presently have progressive environmental initiatives in these areas.
If you would like to submit a case study to be added to the database,
please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.