Sustainability & Environment
Many retailers have been proactive in improving their environmental footprint for many years, providing consumers with access to more sustainable alternatives, in-store recycling, ethical sourcing, and company-wide sustainability policies.
Though most retailers strongly support sustainable initiatives, it is a complex and sometimes overwhelming challenge as they are faced with ever evolving – and sometimes conflicting – research, products, materials, processes and regulations.
Governments in multiple states and territories are currently either implementing or considering bans on a range of plastic items.
The National Retail Association is involved across all jurisdictions, representing retailer perspectives and ultimately encouraging national consistency to prevent negative impacts and confusion.
Download our Summary Table on current and proposed legislation affecting plastic.SUMMARY TABLE
Many areas of sustainability currently affect retailers, and the NRA is actively engaged in numerous projects and regulatory consultation.
Key terms & definitions
- Degradable plastics
Plastic which includes a chemical additive to accelerate the fragmentation of the material into smaller pieces, triggered by UV, heat, oxygen, water or microbial action. Includes “oxo-degradable” and “oxo-biodegradable” plastics. Current research suggests degradable plastics of any kind are potentially worse for our environment as they break into microplastics. Many governments around the world are moving towards bans on all forms of degradable plastics.
- Compostable plastics
Plastic which is made from a material which has been proven to break down completely into natural substances within a set timeframe, environment and toxicity rate. “Compostable” plastics must meet Australian Standard AS4736 (commercial composting) or AS5810 (home composting).
- “Biodegradable” plastics
While claims of “biodegradability” are often used, there is no Australian Standard for biodegradability as the ability to biodegrade depends on many factors. The ONLY Australian Standards are those relating to compostability.
- Degradable plastics
National Waste Policy
We commend the Australian Government, states/territories, and local government involved in the National Waste Policy Action Plan for the recognition of the complex challenges and for launching a national pathway for government, industry and consumers.
More information:NATIONAL WASTE POLICY
Plastic Bag Bans
Seven of eight Australian states or territories will have bag bans in place by the end of 2019.
The NRA supports bans on lightweight plastic shopping bags if they are nationally-consistent and support is provided to retailers.
More information:PLASTIC BAG BANS
- Single-Use Plastics
Container Deposit Schemes
Multiple states and territories have introduced schemes which enable and incentivise the recycling of beverage containers. These schemes involve extensive government and business collaboration and are proving to be highly successful in increasing recycling rates.
More information:CONTAINER DEPOSIT SCHEMES
Many areas of sustainability currently affect retailers, and the NRA is actively engaged in numerous projects and regulatory consultation.SUMMARY OF CURRENT IMPACTS ON RETAIL >
Opportunities & challenges for retail
Environmental impact is becoming a key consideration when customers decide whether to buy a particular product over that of a competitor. Consumers are increasingly discerning in terms of product materials, packaging, and the retail supply chain in terms of carbon footprint, sustainable and ethical sourcing, product stewardship (end-of-life) and waste products. Recent regulatory interventions, such as bag bans, have demonstrated high levels of public support.
As the public demands more change, sustainability and environmental impact is an increasing focus for local, state and national governments, not only in Australia, but across the world. The challenge for retailers is the need for a consistent regulatory approach across jurisdictions and across all types of retail businesses to reduce complexity, minimise costs and provide clear messages to their teams and customers.
As with many sectors, there is increased pressure to improve sustainability from employees within retail businesses. Many retailers are starting to promote their sustainability credentials to attract and retail staff, particularly Millenials or Gen Y, which represent a high proportion of the retail workforce.
Though it can be challenging, retailers who ignore increasing demand from consumers, government and employees for more sustainable approaches risk declining brand appeal, increased regulatory intervention, and missed opportunities.SUMMARY OF CURRENT IMPACTS ON RETAIL >
NRA position & advocacy
Consumers and governments are increasingly demanding industry action on sustainability. We believe collaboration, negotiation and coordination between stakeholders enables us to create practical, viable and commercially-aware outcomes for all.
The NRA supports positive initiatives to improve environmental impact across the retail industry, however these changes must be:
- nationally consistent
- fair for all retailers regardless of size
- carefully considered and researched
- commercially viable and realistic
- supported by retailer & consumer education
- supported by investment in Australian innovation & infrastructure
The NRA plays an active role in bridging the gap between retailers and governments to influence, develop and implement initiatives designed to improve sustainability and environmental impact across the retail sector. We also directly engage and inform retailers about significant changes to regulatory requirements, and most importantly, how to manage these changes.
The NRA are currently involved in a wide range of projects, partnerships, working groups and taskforces to represent retailer interests:
- Founder of the National Retail Sustainability Committee
- Partnership with the QLD Government to assist retailers to manage and comply with the QLD bag ban (since 2017)
- Partnership with the WA Government to assist retailers to manage and comply with the WA bag ban (since 2018)
- Partnership with the VIC Government to assist retailers to manage and comply with the VIC bag ban
- Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) (since early 2019)
- Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria (since Nov 2019)
- Industry Association Members of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO)
- Industry Member of SA Single-Use Plastics Industry Reference Group
- Industry Member of WA Container Deposit Scheme Advisory Group
- Industry Member of ACT Single-Use Plastics Industry Reference Group
- Industry Member of VIC EPA Small Business and Manufacturing Reference Group
- Industry Supporter of Moving the Needle (reduce textile waste) program
- Industry Member of Battery Stewardship Council
To enquire about any of our projects and advocacy, please contact David Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Retail Association Sustainability Committee
The National Retail Sustainability Committee seeks to minimise impact on the environment, whilst maintaining reputation and meeting the current and future expectations of customers.
The Sustainability Committee aims to:
- bring together experts from across the retail industry, government and associated stakeholders to continue the momentum of positive sustainability regulations;
- consider the impact of retail activities upon sustainability, the community and environment;
- consider the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives, such as policy and industry mechanisms;
- contribute expertise to ensure sustainability policy is commercially viable and delivers sustainable outcomes;
- provide a non-competitive forum for key industry and government stakeholders to network and share insight;
- engage in ongoing dialogue between peers and specialists via the NRA’s private Sustainability Committee Linkedin Group.
Launching in early 2019, the NRA Sustainability Committee holds 3 meetings each year, alternating between Melbourne and Sydney.
To enquire about attending the next meeting, please contact David Stout at email@example.com.
Organisations & taskforces we currently work with:
Submission to SA Government: Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2019
In response to South Australian Government's Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2019. The National Retail Association supports the intent of the Bill but has concerns regarding national consistency, definition of terms, exemptions, exclusion of compostable alternatives and other issues...
Submission: Hobart Single-Use Plastics By-Law (Nov 2019)
The NRA support the positive intentions of initiatives to reduce plastic litter, but strongly oppose premature regulatory intervention, such as the proposed by-law, as this: jeopardises national consistency; contradicts and diverts focus from existing projects and plans at a national and state level; fails to recognise the lack of viable, safe alternatives for the broad range of items included; creates confusion with poor definitions and loopholes; creates competitive and customer disadvantages; incurs high and unreasonable costs on business and customers; lacks comprehensive education and support mechanisms for industry; and lacks comprehensive plans to educate the public.
National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019
8 Nov 2019: The Australian Government has released its Action Plan for a National Waste Policy...
Submission: Response to WA Single-Use Plastics Issues Paper (July 2019)
Response by National Retail Association to WA Single-Use Plastics Issues Paper (July 2019) >
Submission: Response to ACT ‘Phasing out single-use plastics’ Discussion Paper (July 2019)
Response by the National Retail Association to ACT ‘Phasing out single-use plastics’ Discussion Paper (July 2019)