In Blog / Retail

Eco-sustainability and innovation in retail

10 May 2019
iStock 1022892932

Let's start with numbers

51 billion euro, the turnover generated by shopping centers and factory outlets in Italy;
2 billion people attendance every year;
2,1 million tons of plastic packaging used every year by the Italians.

Considering the attendance of Shopping Centers in Italy, it might be a good idea to use these spaces to address to a wide and cross audience and convey social values and topical issues concerning the collective interest.

To be more precise, one of the most relevant issues of nowadays is the pollution of the seas and, consequently, the need to gain a new awareness towards eco-sustainability, trying to include it as much as possible in medium and long-term business strategies.

Shopping Centers can deal with this issue in two different ways: on the one hand, they are committed to support the cause following green building guidelines and techniques to get important environmental certifications (BREEAM e LEED); on the other hand, they adapt their communication and the entertainment activities of the centre to make users become more interested in the issue using an amusing and experiential approach: “edutainment”, which we have often heard about this year.

Green building: a total investment

In an epoch in which we are more and more driven to intervene actively and change the fortune of natural resources, also retail and construction are paying more and more attention to energy savings and to the use of natural raw materials. And it’s users that ask for that, showing that in the purchase experience the fact that products are ethical is not the only thing that matters: also the fact that the place where to go shopping is eco-friendly matters.

Nowadays numbers tell us that there are about 30,000 certified projects all over the world including commercial buildings, schools, industrial buildings and other types. 

The two most important environmental agreements, BREEAM and LEED, were born in different cultural and legislative contests (the first in Great Britain in 1990 and the latter in the States in 1993), but they have in common the volunteer certification system and some  requirements that must be satisfied. The extent of requirements met determines the score of the building. 

Although one might think that these protocols come into use only when the project is at the final stage, in fact they are necessary guidelines in the design, instruction and management phases of the project, encouraging innovation and aiming at the return of the high initial investments that are required. The higher initial costs, indeed, can be easily compensated by the savings that one can obtain in terms of operating costs, increase in the productivity of those who live and work in a healthier environment and in terms of economic valuation of the building.

Certainly the investment is not only economic but also strategic, as the attention to eco-sustainability is now a means to communicate the corporate social responsibility and the company’s values, to the extent that LEED defines its mission as “market-driven”. This protocol, which is the most used in Italy (25 buildings have already been certified and over 100 are going to) has the record of having certified, following its redevelopment, the most ancient building: the seat of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (1453). 

Among the certified buildings in Italy there are several Shopping Centers, like “Il Centro” in Arese, with its covering of “Glulam”, wood realized with sustainable materials, the Coop Alleanza 3.0 mall in Formigine, with refrigerated counters equipped with energy recovery systems, a green wall that absorbs carbon dioxide emissions, the recycling Tree to collect used plastic objects and the "solar tubes" that capture natural light and convey it inwards; this technological solution, in particular, is at the basis of the making of the biggest underground park in the world, in Manhattan: “LowLine” will redevelop the old disused metro line and will be inaugurated in 2021.

“Il Centro” in Arese

Formigine Coop Alleanza 3.0 Center

Collecting, recycling and innovation

So, make way to green, even in those places where it seemed impossibile to see it again. It is true that nature already has some aces in the hole, thanks to some organism that can biologically dispose plastic, like wax moths, discovered by accident by Italian scientist Federica Bertocchini, or the fungus “Aspergillus Tubingenis”, isolated in a landfill in Pakistan, but the main part is up to the human being.

Plastic, moreover, must be dealt with in two different ways: the first one, recovering all the plastic that is already in the sea, the latter re-using plastic before it arrives to the sea. And to launch the appeal is just Boyan Slat, the nineteen year old Dutchman who founded "Ocean Cleanup" to collect plastic waste at sea using ocean currents. 

“Ocean Cleanup” Floating barrier

A 5 year study took him to inaugurate a revolutionary action that, thanks to the “Ocean Array Cleanup”, a floating barrier system 2 km long, aims at neutralizing the Pacific Trash Vortex, the biggest plastic island in the Pacific Ocean. Barriers are expected to direct trash towards platforms working as funnels; then boats can go and collect it once a month.

The objective by 2020 is positioning 60 barriers in different areas of the planet and self-financing through the sale of the collected plastic, since the recycling methods are potentially infinite. “We must clean up, but we also must prevent plastic to enter oceans again. We’d better recycle, better use these materials in design creations and regulate trash. We need to combine these solutions” declared Boyan Slat. The main retail companies do not back down. 

First of all Adidas, always ready with innovative marketing strategies and a special attention to user experience: in 2018 Adidas sold 2 million shoes manufactured using the plastic collected in the oceans, in collaboration with the ONG Prley, thanks to 3 new versions of the “UltraBoots” model, each one made with 11 plastic bottles per shoe. 

"UltraBoots" Parley

As said before, within the Shopping Centers the theme is very popular, especially if treated with a proactive spirit, involving children with workshops and fun activities, but also adults, creating engagement that combines digital tools and creativity, and giving the possibility to actively participate in a cause that is so deeply felt.

The formula to solve the problem and reduce the environmental damages combines collecting, recycling and reuse, unleashing the imagination of both adults and children, who will have fun in the present and take advantage of it in the future. Our agency has already started this path: one idea is enough to change the ending!

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Laura Quarti