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Retail leaders call for more regulation on sustainability

Lauretta Roberts
22 August 2019

A vast majority of business leaders across retail, fashion and luxury say more regulation is needed to bring about a step-change in sustainability.

According to a new study by Odgers Berndtson, four in 10 business leaders say they are struggling to make their businesses more sustainable due to commercial pressures, notably to grow sales and maintain keen prices. Some 75% of respondents to the leadership poll said more regulation was needed.

However most businesses (70%) said that being more sustainable was "mission critical" or a key objective for their companies with under a third (32%) saying the main driver was company ethos, but the largest group (39%) cited changing consumer expectations. Almost all (94%) had a strategy and policies in place.

“Senior executives don’t need convincing about the importance of embracing sustainability, but it is difficult and counter-intuitive to implement initiatives which negatively impact profit, even in the short term,” said Catherine Broome, Head of Fashion and Luxury at Odgers Berndtson.

When asked about the most significant gaps in their company’s approach to sustainability, the leaders were divided. Lack of leadership from the very top (20%) and a piecemeal approach (27%) emerged as key issues, but the largest number, 29%, said the main problem was that sustainability goals are currently not included in the objectives of every team and department.

“Companies don’t routinely include sustainability as a measure of success for all senior executives, instead relying on a few named individuals and departments,” Broome added. “In many cases this results in confusion over who is really accountable, puts individual performance indicators at odds with company sustainability initiatives, and ultimately slows overall progress.”

The Government recently rejected suggestions for sustainability legislation that were detailed in the Fixing Fashion report, created by the Environmental Audit Committee, led by MP Mary Creagh. The report was published following an intensive inquiry into the industry with suggestions including the introduction of a 1p garment tax to contribute towards recycling and reuse.

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