Earth Day 2020: Sustainability is a Business Imperative

Consumers will be loyal to sustainable retailers

By Miller Zell

As if there weren’t enough reasons for businesses to make sustainability efforts a priority, a recent nationwide study conducted at Harvard “found that coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country.”

While the worldwide COVID-19 lockdown has created a significant decline in pollution, it goes without saying that shutting down economies across the globe isn’t a practical long-term solution for reducing carbon emissions.

Still, as we consider the strangest of Earth Days amid our social distancing, we’re getting a close-up and painfully immediate view of why sustainability is in its largest sense a life and death issue for people and businesses.

Innovation and ingenuity eventually will overcome this horrible pandemic, and the U.S. and the rest of the world then will emerge from the simultaneous economic crisis. Yet as we’re again open for business, and the economy regains traction, what lessons will we have learned?

For Miller Zell, our message to our clients is the same as it was before COVID-19, only more urgent. Sustainability matters to customers, so it must also matter to businesses. It’s about doing the right thing, yes, but it’s also about the bottom line.

Simply, businesses that are perceived as not aggressively and honestly pursuing sustainable practices will damage their brand and lose customers.

Edelman recently updated its 2020 “Trust Barometer” with a special report that included sentiments surrounding COVID-19. It said, “71 percent agree that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.”

But what about those that demonstrate they share their customers’ values concerning sustainable practices? “Brands that act in the interest of their employees, stakeholders and society at large will reinforce their expertise, leadership and trust and immeasurably strengthen the bond they have with consumers,” Edelman’s report said.

These sentiments have been developing for a while. A 2017 study by Cone Communications found that 87 percent of Americans would purchase products from businesses who advocate for social and environmental responsibility and 76 percent would boycott businesses who don’t follow such practices.

A good sustainability program starts with the three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — and there are many initiatives that can be undertaken that will make a significant difference.

  • Pursue sustainability across the entire supply chain and business operations
  • Minimize packaging and work with suppliers to reduce bulky packaging
  • Encourage reusable shopping bags
  • Donate damaged or outdated merchandise
  • Invest in recycling equipment
  • Educate staff
  • Use, purchase and promote recycled products
  • Promote buy-back programs or upcycling programs
  • Transition to digital when possible
And don’t “greenwash,” which is making misleading claims about your sustainability efforts. That could represent a catastrophic breach of trust with customers that could permanently stain a brand.

Miller Zell is committed to environmentally friendly policies and practices.

  • In 2018, we installed a one-megawatt solar array on the roof of our corporate office and are now generating renewable electricity, so now solar production will offset our non-renewable energy use by nearly one-half each year and reduce our annual carbon footprint by 1,206 tons.
  • Miller Zell is one of 58 companies in the nation that is recognized by the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) as a sustainable printing facility.
  • In adopting SGP standards, Miller Zell maintains a sustainability policy that is overseen by a sustainability coordinator and committee.
  • Miller Zell adheres to a comprehensive recycling program, including the use of a process to recycle ultraboard, which is 40 percent of the company’s raw materials.
  • We engage in responsible material sourcing and use of resources.
  • We focus on managing all the company's activities in an environmentally healthy, safe and responsible way.
  • We seek to reduce waste, find ways to reuse and recycle and use energy more efficiently.

“Miller Zell’s pursuit of sustainable business practices is good for our associates, our partners, our clients and our community,” Miller Zell CEO Chip Miller said.

So, on Earth Day 2020, Miller Zell applauds retailers who prioritize green efforts all year long.

Download our infographic below to explore the unique opportunity that the retail industry has to make a measurable difference in our environment, natural resources and economy. 

Retail Sustainability_miller-zell_Mockup-1

Download the Sustainability Infographic

 

 

TAGS Sustainability Corporate Social Responsibility COVID-19

Subscribe to get the latest from Miller Zell

Want the latest blog post or musings on all things retail? Subscribe below. We won’t sell your personal data, and you can unsubscribe at any time.