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SILC22: “The Gen Z shopper is calling for sustainability and we have to respond”

Bringing the customers along on the journey, transparency and looking at the whole supply chain were just some of the topics discussed by a panel of retail experts at the Sustainability in Licensing Conference this afternoon.

Chaired by Helena Mansell-Stopher, SiLC director and founder and ceo of Products of Change, she was joined by Tanya Ashton, head of sustainability at Walgreens Boots Alliance; Sarah Hawkins, manager at Primark Cares; Harris McQueen, global licensing manager (adults) at Primark; Richard Lim, ceo at Retail Economics; Jade Snart, senior sustainability business manager at ASDA; and Helen Scobie, product development expert at George @ Asda.

Asked about what some of the biggest challenges have been when it comes to their sustainability journey, Jade explained: “With the ongoing headwinds and the change in the economy, it’s sometimes the case that sustainability becomes a nice to have. But it is absolutely a must when it comes to our business. So, keeping pushing our strategy forward in recent times has been a challenge, as well as when it comes to data and transparency. How do we really get behind the system and establish valuable change?”

Talking about how they can keep prices affordable but also deliver on what they’re saying, Primark’s Sarah commented: “We’ve made the commitment that sustainable fashion is accessible for all. But let’s start thinking about it like any other business transformation project. Stop putting sustainability in an ethereal magical box and start thinking about it as a business programme and the efficiencies that you can find.

“But also, what is the cost of not acting? What does that mean for customers and from an industry perspective? But it is imperative and it is built into our business now; it just has to happen. We’re bringing sustainability to life in a way that does work for us. And if we can do it with Primark prices, then the industry can move along with us. The Gen Z shopper is calling for this and we have to respond.”

Looking at the whole supply chain was also raised, with Richard citing some latest research which found that 70% of retailers that Retail Economics spoke to are doing something now, with the other 30% looking at doing something in the future.

For Sarah, Jade and WBA’s Tanya, the question is how the whole supply chain – including the end user – can be supported to go on the sustainable journey with them.

“You’re relying on the next person in the chain to play their part, too,” said Jade. “That is the complexity that we’re facing. But if we’re all asking for it, then we’ll get there but there is a way to go.”

Asked whether more licensors were now questioning retailers’ sustainable credentials before working with them, Primark’s Harris replied: “We have a number of big DTR partnerships and we’re aligned with them on our strategy. Sustainability is always top of the list as to what they want to be reassured by what we’re doing, and that helps to build the partnership from the get-go in new relationships.”

Finally, what can consumers do? Sarah had a pretty simple response: “Vote with your wallet essentially. This makes a real difference. Also, join in when it comes to the legislation. Use your voice and use your wallets.”

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