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Sustainable Practices in Consumer-Facing Industries: Driving Change and Navigating Challenges

Full report: Taking Stock - UK Retail & Consumer Trends

Sustainable Practices in Consumer-Facing Industries: Driving Change and Navigating Challenges

This article is derived from our report 'Taking Stock' in partnership with CMS, which explores the outlook for retail and retail related industries throughout 2023, with key trends and strategies to stay ahead.

5 minute read


As the UK strives to achieve its net zero target by 2050, consumer-facing industries are under increasing pressure to adopt sustainable practices. Consumers are demanding accountability, with nearly two in five believing that retailers hold the greatest influence in driving sustainable consumption. In response, the retail industry is stepping up its commitment to net zero carbon targets, setting an example for other businesses to follow.


Innovations in Sustainable Consumption:

The focus on sustainability has shifted towards the start of the product life cycle. Indoor vertical farms and FoodTech innovations offer efficient ways to grow produce, minimising waste and energy consumption. Plant-based and cell-cultured meat production is gaining traction as a sustainable alternative to traditional animal farming, driven by consumer demand for eco-friendly choices.


Credible Commitment and Targeting Younger Consumers:

Commitment to net zero opens up opportunities to attract environmentally conscious younger consumers, who are more willing to pay extra for products from businesses with strong ethical values. However, achieving net zero will require collaborative efforts and a common vision among retailers and manufacturers.


Challenges of Green Claims and Greenwashing:

Regulators are cracking down on greenwashing practices. The CMA's investigations into fashion and FMCG sectors exposed misleading claims, emphasising the importance of transparent and accurate green advertising. The ASA has also tightened the scope for environmental claims in advertisements, focusing on evidence-based assertions.


Considerations for Sustainable Transformation:

  1. Green Investment: Leveraging low carbon technology like renewable power and electrification for short-haul transport.

  2. Securing Funding: Aligning ESG strategies to attract green finance and investment.

  3. Visibility: Monitoring and evaluating internal processes to commit to net zero goals with guidance from new competition law.

  4. New Targets: Engaging with younger audiences who are increasingly important in the market.

  5. Cost of Living: Embracing trends such as second-hand retail and the circular economy to align with cost-of-living demands.

  6. Uneven Pressure: Immediate focus on sustainability in clothing, footwear, food, drink, and health and beauty sectors.


The consumer-facing industry's commitment to sustainability is growing as the UK aims to achieve a net zero future. With innovative practices and transparent communication, businesses can lead the way in meeting environmental goals while appealing to a new generation of conscious consumers. Adapting to sustainable practices is not only a necessity but also an opportunity for growth and positive change.

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This work forms part of a wider piece of research and is a downloadable in pdf format


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