As they become more aware of climate issues, fashion retailers have undertaken a series of initiatives in recent years to help improve the situation. These are part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments. While the efforts are to be welcomed, the International Association of Department Stores (IADS) now believes that retailers need to take it to the next level and do more for the cause.
After this summer’s forest fires and other disruptions proved the extent of global warming and its risks, the IADS is using this back-to-school season to alert and invite retailers to take necessary and rapid action to reduce their footprint. This "is no longer a question of choice for retailers, but of speed of execution", it explained in a press release.
A new step in the process
While corporate social responsibility has historically been the basis for the first actions to be taken by department stores today, it is set to evolve. Initially required by investors, CSR is now a crucial criterion for consumers and employees alike, as are environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. CSR and ESG represent two aspects of a necessity that companies must face: CSR guides ESG strategy, and ESG measures the effectiveness of CSR objectives. Depending on their level of progress, retailers are taking intertwined actions in both areas, but the challenge is to define a relevant long-term strategy to address many issues. For IADS, this creates the perfect context for a more open dialogue with all stakeholders, for reasons of transparency and financial appeal.
IADS said it believes the success of a strategy depends on the adhesion of the entire company, from the sales floor, distribution centres, to senior management and investors. This initiative also requires the involvement of people outside the company, including external consultants and suppliers. In its report, the association outlined examples of department stores that have been able to grasp the subject of CSR in a more intuitive way and use it as part of their strategy. For example, Paris-based Galeries Lafayette created a dedicated department in 2012, which published its first sustainable strategy in 2013, leading to the creation of the ‘Go for Good’ label in 2018 in partnership with over 500 brands. German department store Breuninger started by publishing an internal CSR mission statement in 2019, while Denmark’s Magasin du Nord used its own brands as a starting point, then appointed an internal team before entering the materiality assessment and strategy development phases.
The urgent challenge of omnichannel
When it comes to omnichannel, the challenge for retailers, according to IADS, is to successfully convey CSR messages both in shops and online, with consistent overall concepts adapted to all sales channels, in a context of rapid e-commerce growth.
In conclusion, IADS believes that although there is no international standard for achieving sustainability goals, actions related to climate change, diversity, inclusion and socially responsible corporate governance are the driving force behind value creation investments. These are therefore key criteria for companies with their customers, including Millenials who place particular importance on them.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.