Being a product designer responsible for creating innovative POS solutions, obsessiveness comes with the territory. I’m always thinking about the next big thing in retail and how we can provide products our customers need and want, and that are as environmentally-friendly as possible too.
At Harrison, we’re committed to championing sustainability and developing products that minimise the retail sector’s impact on our planet. While some level of plastic is seemingly unavoidable in our industry, manufacturers and suppliers like us are investing considerable time and money in designing and producing sustainable alternatives.
Finding a solution to an industry-wide problem
Something we found troublesome (up until our lightbulb moment in 2018), was how free-standing display units (FSDUs) were being discarded into landfill, complete with the plastic corr-a-clips that were used to hold the units in place.
After several weeks of scribbling on whiteboards, brainstorming ideas over coffee, evaluating the pros and cons of each suggestion, and generally scratching our heads, we hit upon a solution.
What if we could create a cardboard clip to support a shelf on a FSDU? One that was simple enough to construct and could go into standard recycling streams? And one that was even compostable? The world’s first cardboard corr-a-clip was born!
The global unveiling of our solution
Trials began a few months later, primarily focusing on durability and strength. Then it was time to unveil our latest innovation at the world’s number one retail trade fair: EuroShop 2020 in Dusseldorf. The reception was extremely positive and the orders began pouring in.
That was until Covid-19 arrived one month later and those orders were put on hold while everyone tried to adjust to the new normal. The sudden increase in demand for PPE meant we turned our attention to supplying customers with sneeze screens and hand sanitiser stations instead of corr-a-clips (which wasn’t our typical product offering!).
When life slowly started to get back to normal, we were able to re-focus on the cardboard corr-a-clips and sales began to boom once again. We’re happy to say that millions are now being used across the market.
I’m enormously proud of the product and the team of designers at Harrison. To see another creation brought to life always brings a great sense of achievement, especially one that minimises our impact on the planet. Our cardboard corr-a-clips decompose significantly faster than synthetic materials if they accidentally end up landfill and that’s worth celebrating.
Time to get back to working on our next big innovation!
- Keen to sample our cardboard corr-a-clip? Contact us on email@example.com and we’ll pop one in the post.
- Check our our recent article on Exploring Sustainability in Retail for more insight into how the retail industry is responding to changing customer mindsets about the importance of sustainability.
- Read more about how CarbonQuota has officially recognised us a carbon reduced operation.
By Douglas Cook
Product Development Manager
Douglas Cook is a product development manager at Harrison, responsible for overseeing the design, testing, and development of innovative POS and retail solutions. These include the world’s first cardboard corr-a-clip and a range of biodegradable EcoPlastic products.
Douglas is passionate about the retail industry along with the exciting opportunities and challenges it presents. Working with his team of talented designers, he loves bringing new products and solutions to market, overcoming obstacles, and challenging the norm.
A Harrison employee for more than 15 years, Douglas has worked in several departments including purchasing and the warehouse. With a thorough understanding of product capabilities, he and the team create robust, sustainable, and cost-effective solutions.
Over the last several years, sustainability in retail has grown from an important talking point into an essential part of every company’s strategy. It’s a change that’s been largely driven by consumer sentiment, with more and more modern customers not only wanting to buy sustainable products, but wanting to buy them from retailers with strong environmental credentials.
The pressure is on companies to respond to this change and embrace sustainability, but in a way that’s transparent, authentic and answers consumer needs. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at sustainability in the retail space, explore why attitudes have changed and investigate the steps retailers can take to become more sustainable.
How have consumer attitudes toward sustainability changed?
While there’s always been a subset of consumers that sought sustainable alternatives and favoured companies with strong ethical reputations, these sentiments have become significantly more mainstream in the last few years.
The 2022 Deloitte survey on consumer attitudes revealed that 64% of consumers had limited their use of single-use plastic in the last 12 months (an increase of 3 percentage points on 2021).
59% of respondents had reduced the amount of new products and goods they’d bought (+ 20 pp), while 40% had chosen brands that had environmentally sustainable practices/values (+ 6 pp).
Other areas of significant growth included opting for low carbon emission and/or shared modes of transport (30%, + 11 pp) and choosing brands that had ethical practices/values (37%, + 7 pp).
What makes this shift in attitude particularly interesting is that it may not have been a conscious choice for many consumers in the beginning. As the Deloitte survey observes, the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic saw people using transport less, shopping more locally and shopping more seasonally – all activities that led to a more sustainable lifestyle by default.
This trend of real-world events shaping customer behaviour continued in 2022, with disrupted supply chains and the cost of living crisis leading consumers to search for various creative ways to spend less.
For example, 53% of respondents reported that they had repaired or fixed an item instead of replacing it with a brand new equivalent one, and 40% had bought second-hand or refurbished items.
But whatever the reasons behind the shift in the consumer mindset, it’s clear that retailers are facing growing expectations from their customers that need to be addressed. However, while it’s easy to argue that retailers simply need to champion sustainability in order to respond to these expectations, the reality of the situation is a little more complicated.
What challenges are retailers facing in terms of sustainability?
Transforming a retail business into one that’s recognised and respected for its commitment to tackling climate change isn’t easy. Sustainability is often seen as a laudable but expensive goal, where significant upfront investments can take a long time to pay off, and some retailers may feel they’re not in a position to make such commitments.
The government is also taking an increasingly firm stance on the issue, launching several schemes that aim to encourage sustainability within the sector. However, the reaction from leading brands has been mixed, with many arguing that these schemes will lead to higher costs for retailers and consumers alike.
Then there are the consumers themselves. A recent report by Savills found that while 80% of consumers described themselves as environmentally friendly, 75% also said that they wouldn’t pay a premium for green products.
This paradox of intent versus actions when it comes to sustainability is one that’s commonly reported within the retail industry and leaves retailers in an unenviable position.
As does the fact that there’s clear scepticism from consumers around brand sustainability claims, which can too quickly lead to accusations of ‘greenwashing’ (where retailers make unsubstantiated and potentially false claims to portray themselves as environmentally friendly).
Savills found that 70% of consumers expected brands to do more about sustainability, but only around 30% believed that retailers would hold true to their sustainability promises.
Meanwhile, nearly half of Deloitte respondents said they didn’t know what information to trust when it came to a business’s sustainability claims (25%) or that nothing could influence how much they’d trust a business’s commitment to sustainability (21%).
So with these challenges in mind, what can retailers do to overcome them?
How can retailers champion sustainability?
With sustainability becoming such a critical issue in the industry, retailers big and small are launching forward-thinking initiatives, implementing impressive changes and committing to ambitious targets in order to reduce their impact on the planet.
Aldi will soon give customers the chance to recycle their used own label coffee pods at collection points, while Sainsbury’s recently launched cardboard laundry detergent packaging. The Perfume Shop has rolled out a new and improved perfume bottle recycling scheme across its stores nationwide, and Tesco has installed EV charging points at 600 stores over the last three years.
Add in the fact that the UK’s biggest supermarkets recently signed up to an ‘unprecedented’ collaboration in order to combat climate change, and it’s clear how seriously the retail industry is taking the sustainability challenge.
Of course, not every change needs to be a huge, headline-grabbing one. There are plenty of smaller steps that retailers of all sizes can take to embrace sustainability in a way that works for them:
- Track their current carbon emissions to identify hotspots
- Explore ways to make their supply chain more efficient
- Consider energy-efficient approaches, equipment and energy tariffs
- Switch to local suppliers
- Look into sustainable packaging alternatives (and reduce or remove packaging entirely)
- Offer a recycling or takeback scheme related to their products
Whatever actions retailers choose to take, communicating about their achievements is a key part of responding to the growing consumer interest in sustainability. The statistics we quoted earlier show that brands can often face an uphill battle in this regard – particularly with sectors such as fast fashion regularly facing accusations of greenwashing – but authenticity and transparency can go a long way.
Setting achievable goals and having the evidence to back up any claims that are made are other important factors to consider as they can add a further level of credibility. Retailers will often team up with an organisation like B-Corp, which measures and evaluates the environmental and/or social impact of a company’s activities, in order to obtain official recognition of their progress against their targets.
Being transparent, setting realistic goals, making statements that can be substantiated and partnering with an evaluator are all ways that retailers can help to overcome the doubts consumers may have around the authenticity of sustainability claims in retail.
How are we improving the sustainability of our business?
Here at Harrison, we’re proud to say that we’ve partnered with CarbonQuota to measure, reduce and certify our carbon emissions. We were recently certified as a carbon reduced operation, which is a great reflection of the steps we’ve taken to reduce the carbon footprint of our organisation.
We’ve also undertaken a series of assessments from EvoVadis as part of our commitment to continually improving our business practices and corporate social responsibility management. This led to us being awarded a Gold EcoVadis Sustainability Rating in 2022.
In terms of products, our sustainable range continues to expand. We’re increasing our use of alternative materials like cardboard, wood and organic fibres in our display products, and both our Ecovision and EcoPlastic ranges are due to welcome new additions in the near future.
We’re also developing a new closed-loop plastic takeback scheme for data strips and look forward to sharing more information about that service in the coming months.
Speak to a member of our team to find out more about what sustainable products and services we have on offer.
Achieving greater sustainability in the retail sector is going to take time. But with rising demand from consumers and growing commitment from retailers, there’s been a distinctive shift in attitudes within the last couple of years.
Positive changes can now be seen at both individual company levels and across the wider industry, and long may this trend continue.
As a nation renowned for our tea and coffee drinking, Britain gets through over 2.5 billion single-use cups every year, and this is only increasing, yet it is estimated that only 0.25% of paper cups are actually recycled.
It’s clear that producers and retailers need to do more to tackle this growing problem.
There are a number of voluntary takeback initiatives in place which have seen positive results; however, the Government acknowledges that voluntary initiatives ‘will only go so far’ and want to see producers take ‘greater responsibility for these difficult to recycle packaging products.’
In order to tackle the disposable cups problem, the Government has set out objectives as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility strategy which includes:
- Increasing the use of reusable cups
- Reducing the use of difficult-to-recycle single-use cups
- Increasing the recycling of single-use cups
With initial plans to increase the recycling of single-use cups, the Government is preparing for the possibility of implementing a mandatory takeback for all sellers of filled disposable paper cups for both hot and cold drinks, irrespective of brand or place of purchase.
What do businesses need to do?
Businesses should focus on encouraging the use of reusable cups in stores, by selling these on site and introducing reward schemes for those customers who use them.
With the proposed introduction of a mandatory takeback obligation however, businesses will be required to provide accessible in-store recycling points for customers’ paper cups as well as installing recycling stations located outside of stores.
Sellers of filled paper cups will also then be responsible for arranging separate collection and recycling of any cups left at their recycling points.
Recycling stations are an effective way to not only increase the recyclability of your business’ waste, but to also be an influence for change in our throw-away culture.
It is clear that brands have a responsibility to lead the way in tackling the food and beverage waste issues and this is a small step in the right direction.
How We Can Support Businesses
Whether for national coffee chains and supermarkets or independent cafes, we can design and produce paper cup recycling solutions with the client’s purpose in mind.
Using the latest CAD design technology with our experience and understanding of the pace of retail, our Product Development Team can rapidly produce bespoke paper cup recycling stations tailored specifically for the client’s needs
From concept to store roll-out, our expert teams will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your business is ahead of the curve to increase sustainability efforts and prepare for the proposed takeback legislation.
How We’ve Already Supported Morrisons
In order to further their sustainability efforts, we were approached by the supermarket giant, Morrisons, to create an innovative and eco-friendly solution for easy in-store paper cup recycling.
Our in-house Technical Team were able to provide the perfect design to prevent paper cups from ending up in general waste. By installing the recycling station, the cups can instead be repurposed into greeting cards. For every 15 recycled cups, two new greeting cards can be produced for the retailer to sell on.
The completed product was made from powder-coated steel and our Creative Team worked with the client to design bespoke branded artwork. A nationwide roll out is now planned to ship Recycling Cup Stations to over 450 Morrisons stores.
For more information on how we can support your business with paper cup recycling stations or to discuss your brief in more detail, please get in touch with our dedicated team of experts today. The time to act is now.
You might have noticed when you arrived on our site today that our online home looks a little different than before. Not only have we built a brand-new website, we also decided to update our branding to more accurately reflect our company values.
As a company, we always strive to do more but it felt as though our image no longer lived up to our purpose.
We believe that the future of retail feels good and that it is centred on protecting the planet and revolutionising the way we shop. We determined that our new identity needed to reflect this and be built upon a complete digital transformation to support our rapidly growing business.
To more accurately support our customers and their specific needs, we have divided our existing offering into Harrison Products and Harrison Retail. We are still the same single company with a single purpose; however, this offering simply allows us to tailor our products and services more suitably for our clients.
We have filled our website with a whole host of new features that will maximise your online experience with us. You will be able to shop our updated collection of stocked products with a more intuitive checkout experience and have the ability to quickly checkout as a guest or log into your account for a more personalised experience, as well as request product samples and bespoke sizes directly from the relevant product pages.
Why not get to know us more by visiting our company page for an insight into who we are as a company? Here you can discover the array of bespoke services we offer to support our clients in protecting the planet whilst revolutionising the way we shop.
You may already know from the Our Green Promise campaign that we are dedicated to minimising the impact we have on the world around us. We have created an interactive experience that allows you to follow our sustainability journey; from the way we act as a business to the products we sell and the organisations we support.
Find out how we’ve helped other businesses on their journey to a more sustainable future for retail by exploring the case studies feature in our brand-new Discover Hub, where you can also make the most of latest Harrison news, insights on industry trends and consumer behaviour and more.
Still looking for more? Our comprehensive Support Hub is packed full of helpful information on everything you need to know about, from frequently asked questions to details on our credentials as well as our new feature that allows you to raise a support ticket when needed.
For more information on our recent rebrand and new website, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.