To celebrate Earth Day, we explore sustainable kitchen design, focusing on why retailers need to understand the benefits of sustainable design before they can successfully sell the concept. Francesca Seden reports…
Sustainability is a hot topic as more consumers are adding it to their wishlists.
One key way that retailers can help achieve the country’s goals to reduce its carbon footprint is by educating consumers on the most sustainable options and guiding them towards the most eco-friendly products.
So, what do retailers need to know about sustainability before they get involved in seriously selling it?
Firstly, understanding that it’s not as straightforward as simply selling a few A-rated electrical appliances. As Quooker UK managing director, Stephen Johnson points out: “The issue of sustainability and sustainable design is very complex. We need to simplify what sustainability is for both retailers and consumers to fully understand it and appreciate the products that make it easier to become sustainable.
“In the home, sustainability comes down to saving energy and water, reducing waste and overconsumption, and investing in long-lasting, quality products. These conversations need to be encouraged and simplified.”
However, as Franke UK sales and marketing director, Jo Sargent, says, it’s also “no dark art”, noting that most retailers will already be familiar with most sustainable products. So, as well as the obvious A-rated appliances, Sargent says it’s important to look for the FSC mark on furniture to ensure its sustainably sourced, and ensure that your supplier is clear at communicating their eco-credentials.
Selling sustainability won’t only benefit the planet – it could also give your profits a boost. As Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens marketing manager, Zoe Hepworth explains: “With increasing environmental awareness, consumers are placing greater emphasis on ethical and sustainable practices when making purchase decisions.
“Retailers should take note that consumers are desperate to make purchase decisions based on clearly defined sustainable benefits.”
However, Hepworth also stresses the importance of properly understanding sustainability and what it is before attempting to sell it. She adds: “Retailers need to acknowledge that sustainability is not just a trendy label or a fad. It’s a way of approaching things and conducting oneself that’s in harmony with our environment and our wider ecosystem.
“You must step outside your comfort zone and start thinking from the grassroots up. For example, by considering macro ecosystems – where do we fit in, in the grand scheme of things?”
Everything, from fully understanding where the raw materials have been sourced, to how they have been made, and the whole supply chain from manufacturer to retailer to consumer, is going to become increasingly important if you’re to sell your business as truly sustainable. Much of the responsibility will fall with manufacturers to ensure they’re practices are up to scratch, and that they are communicating these with their customers.
This point about the benefits of selling sustainability is echoed by many of our contributors, with many talking about an increasingly eco-conscious consumer, and this is backed up by data.
Franke’s Sargent says: “In 2022 sustainability was identified as the number one consumer trend by the Trend Monitor report and data also suggests that over 80% of UK consumers are willing to pay at least 10% more for products if they are considered sustainable.
“By offering a range of sustainable products and having the knowledge and confidence to talk up their energy- and cost-saving benefits, retailers can tap into this demand, attract more customers, and boost their sales.”
So where should you start with eco-friendly products, and what are the key factors to consider when designing a sustainable kitchen?
With the cost-of-living crisis and energy price hikes making life difficult for some, the easiest place to start probably is with appliances. Here, the cost saving benefits are most evident, so even if you can’t, or don’t know how to, persuade a prospect because of the green credentials, you might win them over on the cost-saving front.
Other obvious products include boiling water taps, which also pretty much sell themselves – saving water and offering a much more convenient solution than cumbersome and inefficient kettles.
Leanne Adamson, marketing manager at Abode, says: “It makes sense to showcase products that will reduce energy costs but still allow end users to benefit from the latest deigns and technologies in the kitchen. With this in mind, we are finding that kitchen taps with aerators that limit the flow of water without minimising pressure are a good place to start, alongside filtered water taps that will reduce plastic waste from bottled water.
“In addition, I think that when consumers can see and understand the environmental benefits in a product’s design and construction, such as sustainable steel tap bodies and natural wood control levels, they are more likely to buy into them. This also includes less visible elements such as recyclable filters, cold start valves and flow limited products which help manage water to 5litres/min.”
With other elements like sustainable furniture and worktops, it might be less about the practical and tangible benefits and more about the story that can be built, to engage the customer. For example, the wood for the furniture you supply might be grown locally to the factory, as a number of manufacturers do. You can also explain what FSC certification means and why consumers should look out for this label.
Moores is one of those offering kitchens made from local materials, with 70% sourced from within a 100-mile radius, design manager, Neil McDonald says. “Plus, we recycle our manufacturing waste, and we have been proud to champion our ‘zero waste to landfill’ status since 2007.”
Also going down the recycling route is Symphony, as its marketing and retail director, Simon Collyns comments: “All our cabinet chipboard is made from a minimum of 50% recycled material. Five of our kitchen ranges are made from 100% recycled board.
“Alongside our sustainable product offerings, we have a set a target of 100% Green Energy by the end of 2025. Various initiatives include no waste being sent to landfill from the manufacturing process, an eco-friendly biomass boiler which supplies energy to our head office and manufacturing site and a fuel-efficient fleet of vehicles for delivery and transportation of our products.”
LochAnna’s Eterna kitchen is also made from 100% recycled wood, with the ethos centring around protecting the natural environment – “saving trees by recovering and recycling waste wood to craft beautifully unique decors that have less impact on the environment”, managing director Paul Jenkinson says.
And these are just a few sustainability stories out of many. German supplier Rotpunkt offers its BioBoard, Daval uses FSC-certified wood. These credentials will come to be as much in demand as A-rated appliances are today.
There are also companies like The Used Kitchen Company and Used Kitchen Exchange that work with retailers and consumers to help them recycle their old and ex-display kitchens.
Working with these brands not only means that you’re supporting environmental strategies like the Circular Economy, it’s also a way of making money on products that would otherwise just have been thrown away.
Where worktops and surfaces are concerned, the materials used and where they are sourced is just as important as with furniture – because again, the benefits of the sustainability might not be immediately apparent. You can sell the idea that composites are more practical, more durable, and easier to look after than naturally occurring materials like granite and marble – (which are obviously way more expensive as well).
You can also tell the story of where these materials are sourced, as recycled or waste raw material can play a significant part in the construction – broken glass bottles, different fragments of stone, and sand are all included in the mix of these quartz composites offered by the likes of Caesarstone and Cosentino.
Finally, we asked our contributors whether manufacturers should be doing more to highlight the sustainable credentials of certain products, and what tools they should be offering to help their retailers more effectively sell and educate customers on sustainable products.
To the first question, the short answer is ‘yes’. Our contributors agreed that communication on this issue needs to be clearer and more concise, that manufacturers need to ensure they explicitly state their eco-credentials to make choosing sustainable products as easy as possible.
This will mean offering plenty of marketing material to their retailers and educating them well, so that they in turn can educate the end consumer.
In terms of communication on the part of manufacturers, Sheffield Sustainable Kitchen’s Hepworth says that absolutely, the industry needs to do more, “but not only this. On a B2B level, the entire production cycle would benefit from a collaborative approach to educating consumers about the sustainability benefits of products.
“From the manufacturing point of view, creating literature that clearly defines the sustainability credentials of products would help retailers seamlessly incorporate the same within their end-user marketing messages.”
Symphony’s Collyns adds: “The values and ethical behaviours of manufacturers and retailers play an increasingly vital role in the customer’s decision-making process when buying goods for the home.
“Customers want more commitment to sustainability from retailers so that they can consume better and less. Retailers who put planet before profit, benefit from an improved reputation and in turn attract more customers who appreciate their sustainability values. This ultimately helps to increase the amount of money sustainable businesses earn.”
Finally, in terms of tools brands offer to help their retailers more effectively sell, most of our contributors who offer furniture noted the importance of showing the FSC-Certification.
“We do this to ensure we are consistent with our messaging across POS, packaging, and other marketing materials,” Moores design manager Neil McDonald says.
“We also provide factory tours for our customers where they can learn about our sustainable manufacturing achievements.”
Dedicated training is also offered by most manufacturers so there is no reason why retailers should be ill-educated about the products on offer and their benefits. Retailers need to all get on board too, to ensure they’re in the very best position.