Opportunities & challenges for retail

Suzy @ Leongatha, Victoria

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.

Consumer demand

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.

Regulatory demand

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.

Employee demand

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.

Current key issues

Click on each for more information, retailer advice & resources…


NRA policy position

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

NRA action

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 important issues facing retail businesses, including: plastic bag bans, container deposit schemes, single-use plastics, the circular economy, product stewardship, textiles & fashion recycling, and waste management.  We have also launched the NRA Sustainability Committee which brings together key retailers, governments and industry experts to discuss current and future environmental policy.

Get involved

National Retail Association Sustainability Committee

Sustainability is a broad and vastly different proposition for the various channels of retail, however all have a commitment to the community and social responsibility.

The National Retail Association (NRA) Sustainability Committee seeks to minimise impact on the environment, whilst maintaining reputation and meeting the current and future expectations of customers.

The NRA’s 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.

Contact Us

David Stout

David Stout

Director Policy National Retail Association
David is a highly-respected senior executive across a wide range of retail sectors including corporate affairs, operations, customer insights, finance, procurement, risk and regulation, stakeholder engagement, community and supply chain.  He is favourably regarded as a bipartisan and ethical operative in best practice across retail and corporate industry, regional and urban councils, local and state governments, and is currently involved in multiple advisory groups / committees.
Ebony Johnson

Ebony Johnson

Project Manager, Policy National Retail Association
As Project Manager in the Policy team, Ebony brings a strong background across the retail and hospitality sectors in project management, stakeholder relations, marketing, events and communications. Ebony provides project management expertise to multiple projects, including NRA’s bag ban programs, sustainability, product safety, retail crime and committees.
Lily Charlton

Lily Charlton

Administration Officer, Policy National Retail Association
Lily Charlton provides a high level of professionalism and organisation, assisting with the NRA Policy team's extensive range of retail committees, state-wide bag ban programs and retail crime initiatives.