The evolution of retail has long been a hot topic, with experiential and technological innovations at the forefront of the conversation when we look at the future of stores.
However, despite retail supply chains and products promoting the necessity of sustainable trading, the physical retail environment has been somewhat left out of this conversation. While tackling these issues is a central part of making retail a more ethical and environmentally friendly sector, we need to take a holistic approach.
This means looking not just at how retailers trade but where. The physical environment in which retail operates needs to reflect the shifting priorities within the industry, creating environmentally friendly businesses inside and out.
The UK’s built environment contributes around 30% of the country’s total carbon footprint and almost half of this is from energy used in commercial buildings. Looking at retail, customer comforts are at the forefront of store design, and the large amount of energy used on heating, air conditioning and lighting is a key contributor to this figure.
So what can property developers and owners do to ensure their occupiers are operating in a sustainable environment?
Within the West End, the estates and landowners are paving the way for a more sustainable physical environment, with a number of initiatives taking place to ensure the efficiency of their buildings. The Crown Estate, which owns and manages Regent Street, has pledged that all new developments have a BREEAM rating of ‘very good’ or higher and are WELL certified. For both new and existing buildings, they are also aiming to reduce water consumption by 40%.
Grosvenor is also leading the way in Mayfair and its wider estate, with pledges to achieve net-zero operational carbon emissions from its directly managed buildings by 2030, be zero waste by 2030 and be water neutral by 2050. These initiatives rely on occupiers not only to operate sustainably within their net-zero units, but also to collaborate with the owners to match sustainable practices with their environment.
We also need to look to the wider areas and the initiatives that are taking place on the streets that retailers shape. Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street are defined by the brands that operate on them, and the management of the streets and the wider area are as significant to creating a sustainable retail environment as the brand initiatives themselves.
The physical retail environment needs to reflect the shifting priorities within the industry
In Westminster alone, it is estimated that 40 companies collect commercial waste, contributing to the increasing number of vehicles on the street. To help tackle this, New West End Company has launched a scheme that encourages businesses to consolidate their waste collection and delivery services to reduce air pollution in the area. The fewer vehicles in the district, the better the air quality for all who live, visit and work there.
In an industry that evolves at a rate of knots, retail needs to be at the forefront of consumer affairs. Climate change, sustainability and environmental awareness are at the top of the agenda and it is important to see property developers and owners supporting and working with their occupiers to reduce the impact of their operations, building more energy-efficient stores, reducing carbon emissions and water consumption and working to improve air quality to create more sustainable retail and leisure districts.
Jace Tyrrell is chief executive of New West End Company