What is Regenerative Retailing?
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
As retailers move into a post-pandemic era, many are shifting the direction of their sustainability efforts to focus on actions that not only do less harm to the planet, but actually improve it. This new emphasis on environmental strategy is often referred to as - retailing with a purpose - and is now called “regenerative retailing.”
Since COVID, consumer mindsets have changed on several topics including their decision-making priorities for choosing where to shop. Store selection is now going beyond price and cleanliness to include a need to understand the efforts a retailer is taking to heal both the planet and societal concerns. This new emergence of the “citizen shopper”: a consumer who wants to support stores and brands that stand for important causes such as climate change and equality – will be the target audience for many retailers who are taking specific actions to be more environmentally proactive and socially equitable.
Retail giants such as Walmart and newer companies such as the digital grocer Boxed, are adjusting their business strategies to become regenerative retailers that offer more products and services to appeal to these changing shopper needs. Boxed, for example, has a process in place to ship groceries in a single box from one fulfillment center to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, they have a practice of hiring mostly minority workers for their corporate office as well as sourcing local services and technology to run their business. With a similar focus, Walmart announced their regenerative-retail strategy last year and their CEO Doug McMillon stated, “We want to go beyond sustainability to become a regenerative company dedicated to placing nature and humanity at the center of our business practices.” Regeneration to Walmart means instituting practices to restore, renew and replenish for a better world. Eliminating waste, decarbonizing operations, regenerative agricultural practices, and advancing equity for all customers, associates and people will be emphasized as they partner efforts with suppliers and other community organizations.
To attract future shoppers and drive loyalty, the industry is likely to see more initiatives around regenerative-retailing. Such actions will likely position the industry for future growth and the ability to come out of the pandemic even stronger than ever before.