WWF’s green retail movement aims at promoting eco-friendly products and sustaining demand for the same

The ever-growing human demand for resources is putting tremendous pressure on biodiversity — threatening the continued provision of ecosystem services, health and wellness of human beings.

To keep a check on this pressure on environment, WWF has come out with a new model of strategy — PPP (People, Planet and Profit). This model emphasises on green retail across the globe, promoting green product lines and its constant demand. Not only that, it is also finding new ways of sustaining this green retail. For that, global demand for green lines, WWF insists, is a must. This will result in triple gain: benefit people as they will value products that don’t damage the environment; help the planet to breathe better and facilitate (retail) supply chains to reap profit in the process.

Ravi Singh, CEO, WWF-India says “Human consumption is at a rate 50 per cent faster than what the earth can sustain. Our ecological footprint has doubled in the last 40 years and is on course to double again in the next 40. As a whole the humanity extracted resources more than 52 per cent faster than they could be regenerated eating into the existing stock of forests, fisheries, grasslands, and other assets. Meanwhile the prices for many of those assets have nearly doubled or tripled in the last 10 years according to World Bank Data.”

And therefore, he adds, “WWF’s global green retailer movement will cover a wide spectrum of issues from reducing energy, greenhouse gases, waste, and chemicals, employee empowerment to innovation. However, the core focus for the retail industry should be to ensure sustainable product lines and sustainable supply chains.”

To make the PPP model through the retail industry successful, WWF has recently been able to pursue big supply chains of consumer products like Marks & Spenser, Wal-Mart, IKEO, Carrefour to adopt proactive sustainability agendas, particularly in establishing sustainable product lines across their supply chains. Mr. Singh says, “Many retailers, as part of the Consumer Goods Forum have even committed to taking deforestation out of their supply chain and buying sustainable products, such as sustainable palm oil, cotton, etc.”

Constant efforts on promoting green retail in India including a seminar held in Mumbai recently (titled Sustainability In Retail: A Triple Bottom-Line Approach: as a part of Retail Leadership Summit-2013) show that efforts are also being made by large companies to make a shift to more sustainable supply chains due to increasing consumer awareness globally.

But promoting this concept in India has its own share of issues. The general perception is that the Indian consumers do not care much about product sustainability unlike their U.S. and European counterparts. But the latest green marketing techniques convey otherwise. For instance, says a representative from WWF-India, “in 2008, the top-scoring consumers of 2010 were in the developing economies of India, Brazil, China, in descending order. The survey results show that both cost considerations and environmental concerns motivated consumers to adopt more environmentally sustainable behaviour”.

New trends indicate that global players are putting pressure on their supply chain, which extends into developing countries like India and also their local counterparts and partners. Retailers are evaluating their direct store, distribution centre, and supply chain operations to uncover cost-saving and workforce-enhancing opportunities.India has one of the largest numbers of retail outlets in the world. The retail sector is experiencing exponential growth, with retail development taking place not just in major cities, but also in Tier-II and Tier-III cities. Indian retail already contributes 10 percent of the GDP. So, it is believed with big retailers/corporate houses initiating green retailing, small retailers/shopkeepers will follow automatically.