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Here’s to the Future: Our Guide to Sustainability

  • 7th December 2020

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

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Sustainability within the retail sector has been on the agenda for some years now but during 2020, a year when consumers have had more time to reflect, customer demand for more sustainable practices has been growing, with expectations for brands and governments alike to review their impact on the environment.

In a recent customer survey, Zalando found that the percentage of active customers buying more sustainable fashion has more than doubled to 40% since the start of 2020, with 34% of consumers saying that that sustainability had become more important to them in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with 25% of customers saying they considered sustainability when making a purchasing decision. Another survey by Hotwire found that 47% of online shoppers said they would ditch products and services from brands which violated their personal values.

And it’s not just online customers: consumers across all generations and locations are demanding change and retail brands are having to take note. Clothing brands have never been under such pressure to become more sustainable and our industry is stood on the precipice of great change.

In this guide, we’ve collected sustainable best practice from across the retail sector to showcase what brands are doing to meet this change and to meet the needs of tomorrow, today.


What is ‘sustainable fashion’?

Whilst the two are often linked, ethical fashion isn’t sustainable fashion. The former focuses on how fashion is made, with everything from whether animal products have been used and, if so, how they’ve been treated, to how the garment workers are also treated. Instead, sustainable fashion looks at minimising any negative effect on the environment that comes from a product’s life cycle.

Case Study: ASOS and ReBOUND Returns

In our Guide to Sustainability, we’ve spoken to people across the retail sector to see what initiatives are being implemented in various brands to a bid to reduce their impact on the environment. In 2020, our customer, ASOS, committed to going paperless by removing paper returns slips from outbound orders. By partnering with returns specialist, Rebound Returns, they’ve reduced unnecessary waste and CO2 emissions.

Emily Cotterill, Head of Sustainability at ReBOUND Returns, says: “Retailers are often blind when it comes to returns or, at the very least, looking through a rear-view mirror, which makes it very difficult achieve a more sustainable level of returns. As the old saying goes – you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

“The simplest way to break this habit is to adopt a completely digital approach to returns and go paperless. By removing in-parcel return labels and return forms, in one fell swoop, ASOS are now saving an impressive 64 million pieces of paper, which works out at around 8,450 trees! Plus, they benefit from advanced warning of which items are being returned and the reasons why, boosting their access to valuable returns data.

“As more retailers consider their environmental impact post-lockdown, we predict that more ecommerce retailers will join the paperless movement to reduce packaging waste.

What Else is Included in the Guide?

We’ve gathered the latest stats, opinions and example of best practice from across the retail sector. In this guide, you can find:

  • Research on consumer spending habits and how this impacts sustainability
  • Expert comment from across the retail sector on new initiatives
  • Best practice case studies: who’s getting it right?
  • Where the opportunities for increased sustainability within the retail supply chain are – and where technology can help


  • 7th December 2020

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

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