TMI-Spy on Sustainability in Retail | Reading room | TMI - Experts in Customer Experience

TMI-Spy on Sustainability in Retail

TMI-Spy on Sustainability in Retail

Last week was World Recycle Week (or at least according to H&M!). Whilst H&M may not always be total angels when it comes to ethical trading (some critics still challenge its labour practices), it cannot be denied that the Swedish retailer takes its sustainability responsibilities more seriously than most if not all its retail peers. After all, it was voted the world’s most ethical company in 2014 by Ethisphere. As part of World Recycle Week, H&M is releasing a campaign song and video – called ‘Rewear It’ – penned and performed by the environmentally-conscious singer M.I.A. H&M aims to collect 1,000 tonnes of unwanted clothes from customers across their more than 3,600 stores worldwide. Donors will receive a £5 voucher for every bag of clothes recycled. The cynical amongst us might argue that incentivising people to buy more isn’t quite at the heart of the sustainability argument but supporters would say that at least H&M is doing something. You decide. Read more at

H&M’s campaign last week caused us to look elsewhere in retail to see what other environmentally-sound practices are going on and here are 5 that caught our eye.

1.     We’re big fans of Whole Foods but our bank manager doesn't necessarily feel the same way. Well, this could be set to change as news comes to us that Whole Foods isn’t just launching a budget store but a chain that they hope will eventually become sustainable and zero waste. In a world where cheap and green don’t always go together, we are naturally interested. The new chain, to be called 365, will have refrigeration cases that run on CO2 that apparently will have a much lower carbon footprint than typical refrigerators and 25% of the waste heat from these units will be captured and reused. The fixtures in the stores will also save as much water as possible and all the lights are LEDs. The idea is that offering great food, at good prices in a sustainable way will appeal to all those environmentally-aware millennial foodies out there. 365’s goal of zero waste is certainly laudable, whether it is realistic – only time will tell. The first store opens shortly in California. Read more about it at

2.     We love the next initiative from Metro supermarket in Berlin where an indoor farming company called Infarm is growing vegetables and herbs in one of the supermarket aisles. We have heard of retailers with roof-top gardens but this is the first time we have come across one that is integrated into the store fabric itself. This is another step in the idea of vertical farms which use much less water and fertilisers. The supermarket is a wholesale supermarket aimed at chefs who can use an app to order various herbs and vegetables – even hard to get ones. Infarm will source the seeds and grow them. The pilot is currently halfway through and if it continues to be a success Infarm plans to start mass manufacturing. 

3.     Last year, we cheered the French government for banning their supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food which now have to be given to charities or be used for animal feed. Such a high profile move shone a spotlight on many retailers and many have responded in commendable ways. A new grocery store called WeFood run by an NGO has recently opened in Copenhagen. All the food sold is past its expiry date or has damaged packaging and so is up to 50% cheaper than other stores in the city. Wefood receive its supplies from one of Denmark’s largest supermarkets, various importers and producers and volunteers pick up the produce from these partners. With a goal of waste reduction and lower food bills, what’s not to love? 

4.     We are delighted to hear that ugly vegetables are definitely getting their day in the sun! Asda recently launched the UK’s first ever regular ‘wonky veg box’ scheme and Tesco followed swiftly with a similar announcement. Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s have conducted their own trials and have hinted at a possible roll-out. With estimates of between 30-40% of perfectly edible but "imperfect" vegetables consigned to waste, these are essential activities to change the way we buy and eat our vegetables.

5.     Fans of our publication TMI-Spy Retail might recall us calling out a Germany grocery store Original Unverpackt which eschewed all types of packaging. We are now seeing this trend across the pond. The Fillery is a grocery store set to open in Brooklyn in the US this summer. As with Original Unverpacket, shoppers can bring whatever receptacle they wish to hold their food in and dispense however much they want to. The Fillery is not just about a different way of shopping, it will also provide a valuable knowledge resource – offering classes on how to learn new techniques, tricks and recipes and in particular how to maximise seasonal produce.


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This article was first published on LinkedIn