I won’t spend much time here hitting you over the head with WHY you need to get serious about green retailing or greentailing as it’s known. The implications of ignoring the green movement are pretty clear, especially if you intend to retail to anyone born after 1980.

There is no shortage of good editorials on the WHAT and WHY behind the green movement. Where there seems to be a shortfall, especially for small and medium retailers, is HOW to migrate to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible business platform. Does it sound like we need to spend more time helping retailers start planting the seeds, if you will, of sustainability in their business?

I couldn’t hope to cover everything in a short article, but here are some important steps to get you started.

Green Investigation: I think I just heard you grow up. Look, I realize time is ticking but it’s extremely difficult to support let alone believe in something you don’t fully understand. It is particularly important because today the term “green” has implications beyond the environment. It also covers issues of fair trade in manufacturing countries, consumer health and business ethics in general. I am not suggesting that you become an expert, just that you become very comfortable with the subject and, more importantly, with your position on it.

Create a policy – ​​This doesn’t have to be a lengthy exercise, but including your greentailing practices in the policy will make managing them much easier. Articulating the policy will give you and your staff a point of reference when in doubt. And like all beliefs, putting them in black and white shows an honest commitment to them. As more and more companies start to jump on the green bandwagon, consumers will become increasingly wary of suitors. Having your policy implemented and perhaps even displayed in your store will give you added credibility.

Know the standards: As the green movement gains momentum, consumers will be looking for reliable standards and reliable measures of sustainable practices. Having attended my share of large retail gatherings, I can assure you that certifications like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are top of mind for buyers. In the future, consumers will be increasingly attentive to these types of trusted brands. Depending on what you sell, the key certifications may vary, but take the time to learn what they are.

Start Big – Usually we are told to start small, but in this case, look for the big wins first. Focus on the big three. Products, Paper and Energy:

Products – Make sure you sell green products or at least offer green alternatives where it makes sense. Let’s hope their green alternatives aren’t prohibitively priced or of lesser quality. Make an effort to convert customers to the green option whenever possible. To top it off, do everything you can to make sure the people who make your products are treated fairly, wherever they live.

Paper: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that, in the course of their work, they’ve been processing a form for years that no one looks at or seems to need. Maybe you can remove some forms from your business process? On small sales, ask your customers if they need a receipt. Do you ever really use that third carbon copy you have on your packing slips? If not, move to a two-copy system. Do you use direct mail? If so, are you correcting the address before mailing to ensure each piece is shipped to a valid address? Are there opportunities to reuse paper in your business? These are just some of the questions you can start asking.

Once you have matched the volume, make sure that the paper to be used is FSC compliant.

Power: In most of the stores we visit, the lights in the warehouse, office or bathroom are on all day. Install motion-sensing switches to automatically turn lights off when not in use. Have someone look at the type of light bulbs you are using. There are some really amazing lighting systems on the market today, like metal halite or compact fluorescents that can not only reduce operating costs but also improve the look of your merchandising. You may not be able to put the entire store back at once, so take it one section at a time if you must. Have someone check the efficiency of your HVAC system. There may be great long-term savings available to you or your landlord by upgrading or replacing the unit.

Set realistic goals: Don’t promise yourself or anyone else that you’ll do more than you really can. Set a series of manageable goals over a 5-year period with clear milestones. Plan the steps you will take each year to reach your goals. Above all, stick to the standards you set.

State your policy: Calmly but clearly inform customers of your commitment to the environment and responsible business practices.

Offer small discounts for helping your cause: As little as 10% off if customers bring their own bags or ride their bikes to your store can be enough to influence behaviors.

Finally, don’t view greentailing as a threat to your business. Treat it as an opportunity to reduce operating costs, improve profitability, and do the right thing. If anything, it could represent a clear advantage for smaller retailers over larger competitors. After all, it’s easier to run any practice in one or two places than a thousand.

The fact is that responsible, healthy and ethical products and business practices are becoming gambles and savvy retailers will seize the opportunity to get ahead of the curve. It’s just smart business.

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