Helping customers to live lower carbon lifestyles and make more environmentally conscious choices when shopping is essential if the retail industry is to reach its goal of being Net Zero by 2040, the BRC says.

To drive this forward, it has partnered with PwC to produce a guide for retailers that pulls together best practice for improving consumer behaviour, as well as looking at the barriers to change and how to overcome them.

‘Helping Customers Live Low-Carbon Lifestyles’, which is freely available to all retailers, identifies four customer types and aims to support retailers in moving “Non-Ecos” (individuals who are not informed or engaged with low carbon living), and turning them into “Net Zero Heroes” (who care deeply about climate change and engage with ethical and sustainable brands wherever possible). This requires retailers to inform customers about the importance of a low carbon lifestyle, and how to achieve it.

The best practice follows the lifecycle of a consumer’s buying decision:

  • Engage – Educating consumers on how to live a low-carbon lifestyle, such as show benefits of low-carbon options, or competitions that encourage low-carbon living
  • Buy – Ensuring consumers purchase low-carbon products and delivery, such as prominent positioning for low-carbon products, or promoting rental
  • Use – Encourage consumers to use products in low-carbon ways, such as eco settings on products, or promoting the use of refill zones
  • Dispose – Helping consumers dispose of products in a responsible manner, such as promoting repairs or creating second-hand markets for products

The guide is part of the BRC’s Climate Action Roadmap, which aims to ensure the Retail Industry and its supply chains are Net Zero by 2040. This is key to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The importance of retail is clear, in 2017, the full lifecycle of the sector’s sold goods had a footprint of around 215 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent – 31% of all GHG emissions associated with UK consumption.

“Climate change is the greatest threat we face as a society, and we as an industry have a duty to fight it. The products consumers buy from our stores account for nearly a third of each household’s carbon emissions. Our role helping consumers to make better choices will be crucial in delivering the UK’s Net Zero ambitions,” explains Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

“The BRC is working closely with retailers; sharing some of the very best practices in the industry and using this to help and support others. By changing the behaviour of consumers, retailers can ensure we meet the Roadmap’s Net Zero ambition, driving the market to supply better low carbon products. We know customers want to do the right thing on climate change, but they need help to do so.”

Tom Beagent, director, sustainability and climate change at PwC adds: “For the sector to reach net zero by 2040 sustainability needs to be at the very heart of a retailer’s strategy, focusing on innovations that please consumers and are good for business while reducing emissions within the business and supply chain. Although eco-consumerism is clearly on the rise, we know that some consumer segments haven’t fully embraced sustainable shopping. Retailers have a pivotal role to play in helping these less environmentally conscious consumers access better information and make it easier for people to make low carbon choices. Ultimately all choices need to be net zero by 2040 to meet this target so the race is on to make this vision a reality. Retailers can be part of the climate solution by only offering desirable net zero products and services which can be used and disposed of as part of a net zero lifestyle.”

Earlier this year, the BRC said UK retailers have smashed 2020 carbon reduction targets, with emissions almost halving since 2005.

BRC figures showed carbon emissions have fallen by 49% since 2005, far exceeding the target of a 25% absolute reduction.