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4 Ways Sustainability Is Changing The High Street

by Lee Mark

As single-use plastic bags and straws become artifacts of a bygone era, sustainability and eco-conscientiousness have taken hold of the high street. There are a number of reasons why this is the case and environmental conscientiousness in retail is not solely a response to customer demand but also to technological developments that have enabled retailers to achieve their own carbon footprint targets.

Now, the high street is even beginning to change its design. Stores are scrutinising their interior designs and retail operations, seeking to ensure that their environmental mission is clear to customers in-store and to those who pass by. Here are four ways that eco-minded retailers are changing the high street as we know it.

Zero-Waste Checkout

Spurred by the changes around carrier bags, retailers are overhauling the entire checkout experience. Fewer tags are being placed upon products so as to reduce the waste of each purchase and receipts are becoming available upon request or offered only via digital means, negating the need for both ink and paper waste.

This also relieves pressure on the checkout counter itself, allowing stores to create more tactile service areas, those not restricted by an abundance of checkout equipment.

Ethical Store Furniture

It isn’t only the products that exemplify a brand’s ethical intentions but the shop fittings and furniture too. Every asset from shelving to stand offs should be of such quality and ethical manufacturing that a store can proudly display those products, especially those advocating and representing sustainability.

Shop shelving can be manufactured sustainably or sourced locally, as well as have a natural or organic design, one that indicates the efforts being made by a brand.

Small Retail Concepts

Previously, space was valued. Retailers sought to maximise their retail space so as to be able to occupy more of the high street and host a greater offering of products and services, as best as their budget would allow. However, these large spaces are not only financially costly but environmentally expensive too. And, as more customers seek improved accessibility and online services, smaller and more local retail concepts are being championed instead.

This means that retailers are turning away from large spaces and preferring to focus on a greater number of smaller retail shops instead, enabling them to offer a more sustainable and experience-focused retail experience, one that is also better catered to a specific demographic.


As customers scrutinise the operations of retailers, holding those who fail to meet expected, or stated, standards accountable on social media, retailers are turning to prove their utilities are above board. This means that efforts are being made to demonstrate carbon neutrality or even negativity.

Alongside stores like Apple are other high street occupants like BrewDog who also advertise the positive environmental effects that frequenting their venue has. Such efforts draw in new customers and do well to also earn loyalty too as customers seek to support brands that align with their own ethics and enable them to make purchases without guilt.

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