Embracing Eco: How Shopping Centres Are Moving Towards Sustainable Practices

Embracing Eco

Environmental consciousness is becoming more prevalent in the minds of modern-day shoppers, brands, and investors. ESG – short for Environmental, Social, and Governance – is a set of standards for measuring the impact of a business on society. The importance of eco-friendly practices and taking steps towards sustainability is growing, and it falls on shopping centres to meet the changing demands of their customer base.

Reducing Electricity

When we switch on a laptop or plug in our phones, we take it for granted that the electricity we use will always be there to power our devices. But maintaining tens of retail units can be expensive and take up vast amounts of energy, and with costs rising, this can make it harder for retailers to turn a profit.

There are many ways of saving electricity. Something as simple as promoting an eco-mindset can work wonders, getting staff into the habit of turning off lights and equipment when not in use. Installing energy-saving LED bulbs and lighting can reduce operating costs for retailers, and maximising natural light can provide plenty of free lighting during the day. The impact of energy-intensive equipment, such as ovens, fridges and freezer units, can be offset by installing solar panels on the exterior of buildings. This extra power source can provide electricity directly for the shopping centre, keeping charges to a minimum in the long-term.

Switching to smaller venues or choosing retail merchandising units (RMUs) over traditional retail store spaces can also save electricity and keep costs down for brands and businesses, as well as increasing potential reach to more customers. Find out more about our RMUs and kiosk stands today!

Reusable Bags

Many shops have reduced the amount of plastics used in their bags and packaging in the past few years. Whilst this has resulted in far more eco-friendly materials being used for shopper’s bags, such as cardboard and paper, the sheer number of bags being produced is far from sustainable. Ultimately, most shoppers still use these bags in the same way they would a plastic one – throwing it away as soon as they get their new purchases home.

So if simply changing bags alone isn’t enough, what else can we do?

Educating shoppers is the next step to reducing carbon footprints. The manufacturing of a paper bag uses three times as much water as the manufacturing of a plastic one, so it’s important consumers recognise that each paper bag should be used differently than their plastic counterparts. Customers should be encouraged to start bringing their bags back each time they shop rather than paying for new ones every time. Engaging with the community by incorporating eco-initiatives, such as sustainability workshops or green-themed events, helps to ensure sustainable practices are carried on for generations to come.

sustainable bag

Going Paperless

Even though more and more customers are doing their shopping online, there are still ways to reduce the rubbish generated by foot traffic. Some of the biggest producers of paper waste for shopping centres are disposable fast food packaging and receipts.

Paper food packaging is often marketed as a sustainable alternative to plastics, despite the fact that the vast majority contains many microplastics or chemical coatings which are non-renewable. This makes it difficult to recycle, and results in most food packaging being burned instead of recycled. Fast food chains such as McDonalds, who produce nearly 3 tons of waste every minute, like to boast about their switch to ‘sustainable’ packaging, manipulating the public by hiding the true extent of the damage – a practice known as Greenwashing.

The paper waste produced by receipts is similarly deceptive. Most paper receipts are printed on thermal paper, which includes a special coating designed to change colour when exposed to heat – making it unable to be recycled. In the UK alone, roughly 11 billion till receipts are printed each year. Up until 2020, many of these receipts also contained a chemical called BPA, a hormone disruptor which can be absorbed through the skin.

Responsible shopping centres can do a lot to combat these issues. Where possible, shopping centres should promote the use of reusable cutlery and food packaging, which can be washed and cleaned to reduce overall waste, and challenge brands to reduce their single-use waste. Encouraging the switch to paperless receipts, which can be emailed to customers or stored on mobile apps instead of forgotten about at the bottom of their bags, also stops the creation of unnecessary rubbish and protects the health and wellbeing of customers.

Encouraging Public Transport

Promoting the use of public transport and providing bus, tram, or rail links reduces the number of shoppers arriving by car. Whilst it might mean having to haul shopping bags over a longer distance, the impact on the environment is significantly reduced. Reducing the number of cars travelling to and from shopping centres improves the air quality in the vicinity of the building whilst also reducing noise pollution.

Another way to encourage more sustainable methods of transportation is to implement charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The switch towards EVs requires adequate infrastructure, and although the range of electric cars and vans has increased as technology has improved, travelling is still discouraged if drivers are unable to make the return journey without running out of battery.

public transport

Time To Go Green!

Responsible shopping centres can lead the way in eco-thinking, new technologies and ethical shopping practices. Showing commitment to sustainability is very different from simply preaching it, and customers reward genuine efforts with recognition and loyalty.

There’s also the financial incentives that come with being responsible. The majority of customers prefer to shop with retailers who take an active approach to dealing with sustainability issues, generating more revenue which then goes back into the promotion of greener business practices. Embracing ESG can bring all kinds of benefits to businesses and shoppers alike. As shopping centres are at the forefront of these issues, they present a great opportunity for bringing about positive change to the shopping world.