Helen Lord, founder of The Used Kitchen Exchange (TUKE) explains why retailers must act now to benefit from changing consumer attitudes towards sustainability and the environment.
In 2011, the Hollywood blockbuster staring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, ‘Contagion’ was released with mixed reviews and a weak rating of 6.1 on IMDB, yet in 2020 it quickly became must watch content because of its eery prediction of the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past few years, we have also witnessed an acute awakening to other Global issues such as unconscious bias, mental health, and climate change. It would seem we are beginning to challenge so many things that we have been naively unaware of or avoided in the past.
Simplistic I know, but has the realisation that a hypothetical disaster movie scenario came to fruition brought a sudden awakening to the pending catastrophe’s our planet faces? Can something as trite as a naff Hollywood movie hold the key to why this is? Is our world in the middle of a global epiphany?
Psychologist Nathaniel Branden said ‘the first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance’ and I believe this is where we are at right now. We have accepted that as custodians of our planet the way we are living now is just no longer sustainable and we need to change.
So how has this changed our customers? We already know that Covid has prompted people to rethink their home/work life. Yet, I believe it has also given people a greater understanding of how the way we live our lives impacts our world in a wider context – that the fact we are destroying our planet is a reality, not just ‘Hollywood’.
Therefore, for me it goes without saying that savvy businesses need to reflect this cultural change in everything they do. Your customers now have higher expectations and new motives. Not only do they expect you to work harder to win their business, they also expect you to exceed their expectations in every way. Being more aware of commercialism and needless waste, they will genuinely appreciate thoughtfulness and kindness shown to them, our communities and our planet. And the great news is that this means differentiating your business has actually never been simpler. What we need to deliver is a ‘feel good’ buying experience.
If you were told that, by making your business more sustainable, you will increase profits, I bet your ears would prick up. But owning a ‘feel good’ business will do this and so much more and it’s not as difficult or costly as you may think!
Sustainability is now a strategic priority necessary to build competitive advantage and adjust to new consumer demands
In fact, taking a sustainable approach to business will reduce costs as well as increase your business’s competitive edge. It will also get you ready for imminent government legislation. You will attract and retain talented staff, as people like to be associated with positivity, especially millennials that have been raised on a steady diet of environmental protection messages. Neither your customers or your team want to be linked to a business that doesn’t show it cares about the environment, their employees, customers or the community around them.
The ‘Right to Repair’ legislation is a massive leap in the right direction and has been well publicised. According to Repair.org ‘reuse is the best green policy’ and appliance repair will minimise carbon emissions and material waste. Yet I have heard many rumblings that this will drive product prices up, and potentially stifle kitchen sales.
There may well be an element of truth in this, however as our industry faces these challenges, the savvy KBB businesses will look for ways to support their customers by balancing their desire to purchase new products vs their environmental concerns. They do this by ensuring they offer an ethical purchasing environment. In other words, sustainability can be seen as an essential business enabler.
Moving forward, standards and certifications will build trust and loyalty with your customers and staff. Being at the front and centre of UKE, this is something we have worked very hard on. We are focused on using our business as a force for good to create a brand with purpose and this is why we have invested in becoming a B Corp. We are also delighted to be a Sustainability Partner for the kbbreview Retail and Design Awards 2021, for the third year running. It’s absolutely imperative for us to support our industry in this way and we applaud the sustainability initiatives made to ensure we can celebrate our industry greats and keep our environmental impact to a minimum.
UKE continually seek new buyer insights, and our most recent customer sentiment survey reported that 39.7% of respondents have changed their buying behaviour in recent years by actively looking for more ethical and/or environmentally friendly ways to make home improvements. The pandemic proves that it’s no longer a question of whether your business should embed sustainability. It now becomes a strategic priority necessary to build competitive advantage and adjust to new consumer demands. As we look into the future, businesses that commit to sustainability will not only become stronger and more profitable, but they will also be making a powerful contribution to ‘be the change’ we all want to see in the world.
- Every day in the week leading up to World Environment Day, we are publishing stories from the KBB industry to do with the environment, sustainability, and water saving. To read more articles on this topic go to www.kbbreview.com/?s=sustainability
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