How Sustainability Efforts Are Affecting Retail Design

Published on May 28, 2024

In retail, your space is almost as important as the products on your shelves. Consumers are not just looking for goods and services that meet their demands but brands and experiences that align with their values. And those values are increasingly focused on sustainability and saving the earth’s resources.

So, how does this affect the design or redesign of a retail space? We get this question all the time.

How to Design with Sustainability in Mind

Designing a retail space that incorporates sustainable practices requires looking at the environmental impact of the entire design process — from initial concept to implementation.

“Sustainable design is no longer a nice-to-have,” said Keith Koester, Sales Engineer, CIP Retail. “To remain competitive and meet ever-changing regulations, all store designs should have a game plan for meeting sustainable standards.”

LEED Leads the Way

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement. It provides a framework for adhering to stringent standards in areas such as energy efficiency, water usage, air quality, and material selection. Achieving LEED certification can significantly lower operational costs, help reduce a store’s environmental impact, and deliver a strong statement of the brand’s commitment to sustainable practices.

The Right Materials Are Key

Choosing the right materials is fundamental in sustainable retail design. Eco-friendly materials such as bamboo, cork, and recycled and reclaimed wood and metals not only minimize the environmental impact but also offer durability and aesthetic flexibility. These materials are typically sourced responsibly and have lower manufacturing impacts than conventional materials. Additionally, using non-toxic paints and adhesives that release fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is crucial for maintaining indoor air quality.

Sustainable Materials
These tables and chairs are made out of cork, a recyclable and biodegradable material.

Shed Light on Energy-Efficient Options

Lighting plays a crucial role in retail environments, affecting everything from the customer experience to the display of products. However, it also accounts for a significant portion of a retail store’s energy consumption. Adopting energy-efficient lighting options not only reduces this consumption but also lowers utility costs and decreases environmental impact. Several innovative and efficient lighting solutions to consider are solar panels, LED, smart lighting and motion sensors, timers, and using natural light through windows and skylights as much as possible.

Efficient Lighting
Energy-efficient lighting is safer for the planet and reduces energy costs.

Embrace the Circular Economy

In the circular economy, what’s old is new again. It’s about repurposing, reusing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials for as long as possible. Modular furniture and fixtures that can be easily updated or moved help reduce waste during renovations or store redesigns. From demolition to material selection, every aspect of the design process can have circularity in mind.

“When clients approach us with specific sustainability goals in a redesign, we first examine the existing space,” said Tom Richardson, Sales Manager, CIP Retail. “We always approach the project with an eye on what can be reused or repurposed. It’s incredible what we can do with advanced printing technologies. For example, we took an old, illuminated sign in a restaurant and completely rewrapped it to match the new theme. With the proper strategy and pre-planning, our team can create some amazing transformations while meeting corporate sustainability goals.”

Why Sustainable Design is Important

For starters, it affects your bottom line. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), energy-efficient designs and systems can reduce energy costs by up to 30%. It also boosts brand loyalty with consumers. A study from Nielsen shows that the majority (73%) of global consumers say they would definitely or probably change their buying behavior to reduce their environmental impact.

Sustainable building design is also becoming mandatory. According to the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), 100% of all existing buildings must operate at net zero carbon by 2050, and all new buildings must operate at net zero carbon by 2030. WorldGBC defines a net zero carbon building as highly efficient, with all remaining energy from on-site and/or off-site renewable sources.

Communicating Your Efforts Without Greenwashing

Communicating your sustainability efforts is important. It builds trust and loyalty with customers, attracts talent, and motivates current employees. Your efforts can also help set standards within your industry and encourage other companies to adopt similar practices.

However, greenwashing will have the exact opposite effect on your brand. Greenwashing is making empty, misleading or false claims about a product or service’s environmental or social merits. If you go too far or make unbacked claims, you’ll quickly erode consumers’ trust.

To avoid greenwashing, make sure you:

  • Do not make vague claims. When using terms like “eco-friendly” or “green,” be sure to explain what those terms mean in the context of your design. For example, if you use recycled materials, specify what percentage is recycled and how it impacts the environment.
  • Provide evidence and/or certification. When possible, back up your sustainability claims with data and certification from reputable independent organizations like LEED or ENERGY STAR.
  • Use clear language. Avoid technical jargon that may confuse consumers or suggest that you’re trying to obscure the truth.

CIP is Your Partner in Sustainable Design

No matter the size of the project, our customers come to our team for advice on meeting sustainability goals when designing or redesigning their spaces. From repurposing existing components and features to sourcing the use of recycled materials in design, our team can provide sustainability solutions tailored to your needs and goals.

What are your sustainable design goals, and how can we help?

How Sustainability Efforts Are Affecting Retail Design