How to Be Sustainable During Peak Season: 10 Aussie Retailers Share Their Tips  

by
October 21, 2021

Consumers around the globe are becoming more aware of the impact their purchases have on the planet. And in response, brands need to become more sustainable.

According to ShipStation’s research, 62% of younger consumers prefer to shop for sustainable and green products, while 82% of consumers as a whole said they would like their parcel packaging material to be recyclable.

And, with Australians set to spend big on Christmas presents this year, retailers need to take note of this growing movement.

In fact, Aussies will likely spend more than $11 billion this Christmas, according to new research from the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) in conjunction with Roy Morgan.

Gift buyers are expected to spend an average of $726 each, with an average of 48% of Christmas presents likely to be purchased online. More than half (58%) of people say they’ll purchase more or significantly more items online than they did last year.

In preparation for this year’s peak season, 10 leading sustainable retailers weigh in on the challenges and opportunities they anticipate this holiday season and share their tips on the steps businesses should take now to be more sustainable.

Heath Maes, Founder, Ark & Sea

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

We always felt that [sustainability] was something that wasn’t discussed enough. Plastic pollution is easily ignored because it’s not something everyone sees or hears about. The core aim of our business is to help spread awareness and raise this issue that is impacting society.  One of our most popular t-shirts has the statistic, ‘If we keep producing plastic at predicted rates, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050’. A mind-blowing statistic that proves just how incredibly important this issue is.

What are some of Ark & Sea’s sustainable practices?

We aim to use 100% cotton for all products that we source and use watercolour eco-friendly inks for our printing methods. While also using environmentally friendly screen-printing techniques that don’t involve chemicals, emulsions, or other harmful materials. We do all of the screen-printing/embroidery ourselves so that we can manage quality control as well as helping to manage waste and keep an eye on current methods and continuously look to improve where we can. We also only use supplies that are ecofriendly – from the envelopes we use to the toilet paper we purchase.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

Definitely sourcing materials with lockdowns causes delays. We only keep small amounts of stock to reduce storage space/waste/etc. So, trying to source things and keep up to date with orders can be challenging.

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Track wastage and look to reduce where possible. We aim to reduce our waste pickup each month. We only have one collection for the month and aim to make this smaller and smaller month on month. We changed our shipping bags, changed the ways we printed clothing to reduce waste and supplies, and stopped buying things that were wrapped in single use plastic. Little things can make a big difference over the month.

Hayley De Angelis, Creative Director and Owner, Cleanse & Co

What are some of Cleanse & Co’s sustainable practices?

Sustainability is a huge part of Cleanse & Co. We pride ourselves in ensuring we maintain a level of not only ethical practice but sustainable. All our crystals are ethically sourced, and the rest of our products are handmade and locally made in Australia. Our packaging is ecofriendly, and we have invested in recyclable technology and ecological waste solutions to minimise footprint as well as optimise the green practices of the Cleanse & Co. brand.

Like most of our products online, Cleanse & Co. is vegan, natural, organic certified, locally owned and made and recyclable after use. We respect the planet, mother nature and recognise that our practices should always be ecofriendly and sustainable. Our packaging is thus ecofriendly, reusable, and recyclable after use. With the strong mindset of caring for the environment, we have also implemented eco-friendly waste solutions to minimise all plastic packaging by investing in a recycling machine that turns all our cardboard rubbish into reusable packing material. 

What are you most proud of about your business/products?

I am most proud about how all our products resemble my initial business goals, and that was to create and sell products that helped people in positive ways whilst also supporting the environment and not adding to its catastrophe. The business is so personal, and has stemmed from my own intentions of helping others through the practices that have helped me in overcoming challenging times in my life. I am proud that as a team we are able to put forward products that represent growth, encouragement and support across a range of areas that are not just limited to physical health but mental. Every product is made with love and the intention to support individuals – ever product has been trialled, tested and perfected into what you see online and for me seeing my vision come to life has been an incredibly proud moment, more so that I get to share it with others in attempts to inspire and support them too. 

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

This has definitely been an incredibly busy period for us. The business keeps growing and that only means more orders and a larger customer base. We are so grateful and work extremely hard to deliver for our customers, however, like many other businesses we have faced challenges such as staff shortages and delayed stock due to COVID and state lockdowns.

I think especially during busy business times it is important to keep implementing sustainable approaches to the business and to not make any shortcuts when it comes to product quality. Quality definitely comes above quantity and has been something we value most about our brand. Even in tough times, businesses should be striving to deliver the best possible service to customers with sustainability always in mind as it has become a distinct value present in the way consumers buy. 

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Waste is undeniably a huge impact in any business, and I think the way we control and organise this is critical to how businesses operate. I believe that investing in products and services that help your brand become more sustainable is important. We have recently purchased a cardboard recycle machine that turns flattened cardboard boxes into shredded paper perfect for packing and great for use instead of plastic wrap. It not only acts as an environmental initiative but saves major costs and time – especially amongst sourcing packaging for your brand. Reusable and recyclable packaging has never been as prominent.

Anna Mitsios, Founder & CEO, Edible Beauty Australia

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

At Edible Beauty Australia, we aspire to create a range of the highest level of therapeutic and pure skincare that is friendly to both humans and the earth. Our sustainability policy is our Green Beauty Ethos, featuring environmentally friendly pledges like onshore production in Australia, recyclable packaging, and use of sustainable, wildcrafted ingredients. It is this ethical standpoint which drives all of our decision-making processes. In it we pledge Edible Beauty Australia minimises its impact on the environment wherever possible. We are committed to becoming more sustainable the more we grow and believe that taking care of the environment is everyone’s responsibility, including all of our staff and our customers.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

One of our key challenges is maintaining sustainable practices when it comes to the shipping of our products and also our packaging. This can become costly and inefficient at times during peak season. Sourcing cost effective packaging which is also sustainable whilst ensuring all products continue to be made with best sustainability practices (FSC friendly, recyclable, PCR) is one of the things we take time to ensure is in place before peak season. 

What advice do you have for other businesses when considering becoming a sustainable business?

I would recommend companies start to think about all of their business practices and how they can become more sustainable at each step of their production and sales process.

This does not need to be an incredible overhaul of any existing practice, rather slow but steady and consistent improvements in their processes to become more sustainable. Customers will definitely value all small and large changes that are being made. Just becoming conscious of how to make a positive impact on the environment will have a significant impact on future business practices. 

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Finding suppliers to provide sustainable packaging is important as is ensuring staff are aware of sustainability best practices. Taking the time to reward staff who are exercising first class sustainability measures is the key to fostering an eco-conscious customer base. 

Ben Young, CEO and Founder, frank green

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

Sustainability is at the core of everything we do and why we exist. We are living on a beautiful but hurting planet that is currently on a knife’s edge. There is an environmental emergency at the moment, and we need to work together to do something about it now; waiting until tomorrow means our future generations don’t have what we have. 

At the moment there is more plastic produced per year than there are humans on the planet. Every one of us can do what’s in their power and influence, starting with the everyday things like don’t accept single use coffee cups. If you forget, then resist the coffee for the moment and insist on a reusable. These seemingly small choices will galvanise the future for humans and animals on this planet.

What are some of frank green’s sustainable practices? 

We have a ‘green team’ internally that meets fortnightly to maintain and progress the sustainability of frank green. They spearhead projects like changing appliances to be more environmentally friendly, monthly park clean ups, team education on best recycling practices and how to compost. They also work with the global leadership team to move the business forward overall with initiatives like removing all single use from our supply chain – which even as a reusable, sustainable business is a monster task to achieve. It’s really important to us to have sustainability at the forefront of business decisions and the green team keeps us accountable and makes sure its front of mind for everyone.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

Creating products and packaging that celebrate the season, but in a way that isn’t wasteful and doesn’t leave us with dated excess materials.

What advice do you have for other businesses when considering becoming a sustainable business?

Be prepared for the time and cost impact it will have on your business. It’s not always easy and you have to keep at it and keep the momentum up, you have to commit to a goal and the cause. Keep an open mind and be prepared for it to cost more.

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Make sure your operations are as environmentally friendly as possible and make plans to create change if not. There are great environmentally friendly options for services these days so it’s easier than it used to be. Do a review of your packaging to make sure it’s as environmentally friendly as possible. For seasonal gifting, don’t create new packaging that is only useful for the season and will leave you with lots of leftover packaging, if you want to be unique and cater to the peak season, don’t change the fundamental structure of the packaging, but add in things that you will use again like gift cards that you can bring back the following year or a sleeve wrap that is more suited to all year gifting than Christmas, so it doesn’t date and you can use it year round.

Alf Orpen, Chief Entrepreneur Officer (CEO), Miessenceau

What are you most proud of about Miessence?

From the very outset we wanted to create what had not existed at the time in the health industry. Naturally, our initiating major achievement was when Miessence became the world’s first certified organic skin care range in 2001.

From there, we have continued to create world first certified organic products that range from supplements to home care products. Additionally, we plant thousands of trees annually to fulfill our purpose and mission.

We have chosen to plant mangrove tree eco-systems as on average a mangrove tree extracts give times as much CO2 from the atmosphere as a rainforest tree. In doing so, we have been able to offset our own carbon emissions 100-fold.

 What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

As the founder of Aikido once stated, “the wise win before the fight” meaning that being prepared is the most important aspect in any endeavour.

To achieve a win-win-win with the customers, the environment, and ourselves, an important aspect is to give people specials so they purchase larger quantities less frequently.

This allows the customers to save money, less pollution occurs because one larger parcel contains a lot less materials to freight than several more frequently and we benefit from less processing with less orders. 

What are some of your Miessence’s sustainable practices?

Our work and business are our sustainability practices.

Quite frankly, if one’s business is not then it’s possibly greenwashing. From the sourcing of our ingredients through to packaging and the tree planting this isn’t purely business for us, it’s an important part of life. 

We want to go further. We are currently working on a pivoting in our business model where our factory and warehouse is split into local micro-enterprise production facilities based in each city we sell in around the world. This will result in a significant reduction in packaging used and fuel due to locality. 

Early this year we also launched our “Shop & Save ” initiative offering increased discounts as the order value increases. This initiative was introduced to encourage our customers to purchase larger orders, less frequently rather than smaller orders, more frequently.

By offering this initiative we are able to reduce our logistics packaging, reduce our freight carbon emissions impact and our customers can enjoy affordable natural and organic health, beauty, and home care products. It’s a win for our planet, a win for our company, and a win for our customers. 

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Essentially, a retailer can change the paradigm in a significant way by choosing suppliers who meet higher sustainability standards. Choosing suppliers that use no synthetic ingredients and reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging. From there, they can look internally for the usual good practices such as reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Lucas Ferrier, eCommerce Manager, Salvos Stores

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of Salvos Stores?

Sustainability means so much to us at Salvos Stores, from both an environmental and a social perspective. Through the generous support of our customers and donors, we divert over 38 million items every year from landfill, through our network of 350 stores around Australia and our online store.

 We believe in making sustainable choices that also ensure we can continue to support community programs throughout Australia. This means re-purposing as many of the items we receive as possible and diverting those that we cannot sell to other channels that assist us in reducing costs or providing additional funds. For us, sustainability isn’t just about keeping items in the loop, it’s about ensuring we can continue to generate much needed funds to support Aussie’s in need through The Salvation Army community programs.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

As an organisation whose product is primarily donated, we experience peaks in both supply and demand throughout the year. During peak donation periods such as spring, Christmas and New Year, it can be a challenge for our teams to keep up with the volume of generous donations provided by the community. We approach this challenge cross-functionally, working collaboratively with our logistics, warehouses, call centres, communications, and retail teams to ensure that we can manage the supply of donations during these times.

From a sales perspective, preparation and communication is key. Ensuring that we have sufficient supply of sustainable packaging materials available at our 250+ micro-fulfillment centres (our stores) on hand to meet the increased order demand and our customers are aware of any potential delays to their orders.

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Using recycled and recyclable packaging options. For example, where possible, we repurpose boxes that donations have been provided in for sending out our online orders and we’re rolling out 100% recycled (80% PCW/ 20% Industrial) satchels to send our online orders. With longer lead times for production on some custom packaging materials, getting your order in early, and ordering enough supplies, is important in the lead up to peak season. Another step retailers can take is to train your teams best-practice packaging now. Don’t wait until peak season hits. And lastly, remember to breathe! It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of peak season, but it’s important not to let sustainability practices slip.

What are you most proud of about Salvos Stores?

Since launching our online store last year, collectively, our stores have listed more than 185,000 items online and have sent more than 92,000 individual orders to our customers’ doorsteps around Australia. That’s approximately 54 tonnes of goods re-homed through our online offering alone!

What are some of Salvos Stores’ sustainable initiatives? 

Salvos Stores has invested in Waste-to-Energy technology in South Australia, with diversion of 471 tonnes of material away from landfill and mitigation of 170 tonnes greenhouse gas emissions in the first year. Energy-efficiency programs have also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1,700 tonnes per annum nationally, with further energy efficiency and solar projects in the pipeline to transition to green energy. Salvos Stores also has national recycling programs in place to support a broad range of materials recycling including paper/cardboard, e-waste, metals, batteries, mobile phones, printer cartridges and textiles.

Dana Beament, Founder/Happy Executive, SAMMIMIS

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

SAMMIMIS produces high quality products that are timeless and practical, which means our customers keep their purchases for many years to come.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

Having to use Airmail service to top up stock when sales reach higher than expected. Higher freight cost due to high demand in sea freight impacts on prices to our customers here in Australia.

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Recycling faulty items by repairing and on-selling as seconds – no landfill. Making strategic decisions regarding stock levels, prices and being in constant contact with our freight companies and suppliers. Constantly optimising our processes and systems to adjust to ever growing demand.

What advice do you have for other businesses when considering becoming a sustainable business?

It feels good to do the right thing. It’s a journey you consciously take on and certainly realise that you’ll never be perfect, but you thrive and improve year after year. It pays off in the long run. Our customers and potential customers look for sustainable business to buy from and the trend is growing. So, jump on, and enjoy the ride!

Geneva Valek – Founder, Shampoo with a Purpose

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

Sustainability is the core of our mission as a company because at the end of the day, the world is at risk. Our emissions are significantly threatening our environment and with temperatures set to rise above 1.5 degrees across the globe between 2030 and 2052, we have to take action. And fast. Whilst what we can do is only a tiny fraction of what major corporations are capable of doing, there’s a moral imperative to care for the planet and sustain it.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

The greatest challenge we face is keeping up with demand.

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Planning! A good strategy that allows for growth and expansion will come in handy throughout the silly season. Always aim a little higher than you expect, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

What are some of your Shampoo with a Purpose’s sustainable practices?

All of our orders are packaged plastic-free and are carbon neutralised. We have saved over 2,000,000 plastic bottles from being made, used, or thrown away. 

What advice do you have for other businesses when considering becoming a sustainable business?

Think about everything from the bottom up. A good business owner/manager will know (at least roughly) how to do every job that happens within their company. Working on these micro levels will help you increase efficiency and will show you what you can do to improve your sustainable practices. That goes down to the kind of tape you use, things that are thrown away that could be repurposed (we regularly re-use boxes that we receive) and even what is printed in your office. Having an eagle-eye on the practical elements of running your business will improve your impact on the world and will sometimes help your bottom line. Being sustainable isn’t about spending more money on expensive products, it’s about making good use of what you have and re-using where possible.

Glen Mayer, Director, Subo Products

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

Subo is sustainable because the materials we use for our bottles are durable and reusable, which means that there is no unnecessary wastage of resources as is the case with disposable squeeze pouches.

What are you most proud of about Subo Products?

We often receive reviews from our customers that claim our product has changed their lives. Whether it be from parents of children that are refusing meals due to being unwell, or from parents with children who have disabilities; to hear our innovative product is improving the lives of families in many ways it is something we are most proud of.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable business during peak season?

Keeping up with demand and relying on on-time delivery, which is difficult at the moment due to COVD delays.

What steps can retailers take now to become more sustainable this peak season?

Reduce the amount of packaging used to ship orders out. We customise our shipper cartons so that there is minimal empty space that requires filling.

Jason Eades, CEO, Welcome to Country

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it at the core of your business?

As an Aboriginal-led business, sustainability is very important. Indigenous peoples are the custodian of the land and sustainability is and always will be important to us. This belief is tied into our business practices. 

What are you most proud of about your business/products?

The fact that we are generating income for Indigenous businesses and artists and giving them a platform to promote and sell their products. To date we feature more than 1000 products from businesses who are all Indigenous owned or pay fair royalties to artists. 

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