Ed Gillespie takes 5

Following our Luxury meeting earlier this year, our Editor sat down with our Chair Ed Gillespie to get his advice on how retail leaders outside of the CSR department can help drive change in their organisation.

Also, scroll down to see the full size scribe of the keynote.

1. What are the first steps retailers can take to become more sustainable?

I think given the climate emergency then carbon footprint and emissions are crucial. If a business does not understand its carbon footprint then it can’t act on it. Every business should measure their emissions and commit to sciencebasedtargets.org

True luxury is about ‘elegant simplicity’ – beautiful, well-made, enduring and sustainable products. Provenance is key. All materials should be ethically and sustainably sourced, that includes precious metals from mining, and everyone involved in the supply chain should be respected, valued and properly paid – as campaigns like www.fashionrevolution.org make clear.

2. What are the key questions retailers need to be asking?

How do I ‘choice edit’ the most sustainable options for my customers? It’s very hard to buy an ‘E’ energy efficiency rated washing machine for example, because retailers don’t sell them. I think retailers need to make tough choices on behalf of customers and only sell them what is quality and sustainable. That alleviates the stress of the ‘tyranny of choice’ for customers, and simplifies business for the retailer.

3. What are the biggest challenges retailers face when switching to more sustainable operations?

Complacency and ignorance at Board level. You usually find employees are very keen and motivated to make organisations more sustainable. Often what blocks this potential from being realized is chronic short-termism (driven by bonus cycles) at Board level who refuse to invest to save or make changes that don’t pay back immediately.

4. What advice would you give to people who aren’t directly involved in CSR, how do they play their part?

Everyone is a CSR manager now! This is everyone’s responsibility. We either address the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change together. Or we all go down together. It’s really that simple. So sustainability is inherently on everyone’s job description.

5. How can retailers embrace innovative ideas, what technology is out there and how is it an enabler?

I think retailers have to address a ‘less is more’ philosophy. Consumption is one of the key drivers of climate change. And consumption is directly linked to income – the more you earn, the more you consume. Retailers should be selling less, better made products and embracing an upcycling/recycling/recovery/rental philosophy which isn’t about a simple linear throughput of materials but rather a circular relationship between retailer, customer and product that involves return, reuse and reciprocity. Blockchain helps this traceability and transparency for sure if used well.