Sustainability Webinar with Retail X: How the Industry Is Changing To Meet Consumer Demand

Written by PrioryDirect on . Posted in Uncategorized, Awin, Business Services (B2B), Business Services (B2B), Office, Office, UK

With the ever increasing pressures of climate legislation and changes in consumer behaviour, the ecommerce and online retail industry is having to adapt, change and improve; reducing impact on the environment and striving for sustainability. Our Managing Director- Josh Pitman, joined Emma Herrod - Editor of RetailX and Sophie Moule - Head of Marketing at Pi Datametrics to talk about the steps that are being taken by retailers within the industry to become more sustainable.

Click here to watch the Webinar.

What the experts say:

Consumer behaviour and habits have changed significantly over the last few years and the focus on sustainability and eco-friendliness is more prevalent now than ever before. More than 4 out of 10 shoppers say they would pay more for a sustainably sourced product or service and a third have already done so; whilst 70% of shoppers say it’s important for them to buy from companies whose values align with their own[1]. This shift in behaviour isn’t just noted in studies and surveys, Sophie Moule explains that search engine data shows that consumers are researching sustainable alternatives in their everyday lives, with searches for ‘vegan’ increasing by ~46% in 2020-2021 vs 2018-2019, and searches for ‘sustainable retail’ increasing by ~22% in the same time period[2]. This search engine data shows real intent from consumers to change and opt for more planet friendly, sustainable options. Consumer demand is so strong that it cannot, and certainly should not, be ignored.

Due to consumer demand, commercial decisions are changing; what once was bottom line focused is now sustainability focused and the shift from brands and companies selling efficiency solutions to sustainability solutions is evident. The rising popularity of environmental documentaries and the Attenborough effect have certainly been influential in changing consumer habits and once that awareness has begun, it cannot be undone, so brands are forced to make better, more considered decisions that reduce their impact on the environment.

But it’s not just high-level sustainability efforts that consumers are interested in, there is a real demand for sustainability to be considered throughout every element of the production cycle, from product development and sourcing, in-bound logistics and supply chain, to sales, delivery and returns. Sustainability is not just a marketing tool, brands and companies who are embarking on their sustainability journey should be doing so from a truly authentic and genuine perspective. Consumers are aware of greenwashing and the unauthentic attempts at sustainability by brands and businesses, so authenticity really is key.

How packaging can impact brands' sustainability:

Josh Pitman talks about Priory Direct’s position within the packaging industry and states that; ‘as a packaging supplier, we actually try to get people to use less of it. That may seem counterintuitive but it is after all, a waste material, and waste and unsustainability increases a company's carbon footprint’[3]. Shipping air, or over use of void fill due to ill fitting packaging is just one issue that is contributing to larger footprints within the ecommerce and online retail industry, and packaging as a whole holds one of the keys to improving sustainability.
Priory Direct is on a mission to make ecommerce a fully sustainable industry, and packaging is just one aspect of that, but it’s an important one. Packaging is the first time a brand meets the customer in the real world, so it’s a hugely important touch point, and poor packaging choices can damage not only brand perception but the environment too. The emerging trend amongst brands is to make sure packaging is communicating sustainability to the consumer; brands are making good, considered choices and explaining that with official markers on their packaging.. Not only does this increase awareness of sustainability and the planet friendliness of the packaging, it also adds character and perceived value, enhancing the brands journey and voice.

We at Priory Direct have created our own brand of planet friendly packaging - Priory Elements - that focuses on communicating our sustainability story, educating end users on the eco credentials of the packaging, and raising awareness of the environmental movement. We’ve also partnered with 1% for the Planet, so as a business we are able to help protect the environment with every purchase made with us. We have partnered with 1% FTP in two capacities; we donate 1% of all sales of our Priory Elements ranges, helping make meaningful change through customers purchasing these products. And secondly, we allow all our customers to donate their loyalty reward points to charity when they order with us. It is a simple, effective way for customers to support environmental charities when purchasing their packaging essentials, and it doesn’t cost them a penny. Larger customers have the potential to make huge donations through bulk purchases, and this type of partnership is something that can be emulated throughout the industry, making monumental change.

Ultimately, connecting to your customer base through your packaging and communicating your sustainability journey through customer interaction points, explaining why it’s important to your brand, is the key to raising awareness and truly using your business as a vehicle for good.

Brands that are setting excellent examples:


Finisterre are a great example of a brand using customer touch points to communicate their sustainability story, and really reinforce their planet positive sentiment in all that they do; truly encapsulating authenticity in their messaging. Their Positive Impact Report 2020 shows how they are dedicated to using their business for good and defines how they are using their B Corp certification and place with the market to affect real change.


Similarly to Finisterre, Patagonia really sells the lifestyle rather than just their products. Their communication and messaging to their customers is transparent, authentic and educational; putting a real focus on making change and protecting our planet for future generations. The ‘Activism’ section of their website is an innovative, revolutionary way of getting their customers invested in the lifestyle and not just the products.

With the textiles industry having a larger carbon footprint than all travel combined, it’s great to see brands such as Patagonia and Finisterre taking action to reduce their impact on the environment and reduce the industries footprint.

Mayborn Group

The Mayborn Group have set themselves the target to have a climate neutral supply chain by 2030, by the end of 2022 they will have removed all single use plastics from their packaging and have a fully sustainable operation across their entire organisation, as well as appointing an internal sustainability team dedicated solely to that. They are a shining example of a company setting ambitious targets whilst fiercely making change in every aspect of their organisation.

How the Plastic Packaging Tax will help:

Plastic itself has a low carbon footprint and is actually highly recyclable, however it becomes problematic when it is not disposed of correctly and it ends up in our environment.

78 million tonnes of plastic was used in the EU in 2018 and 98% of that came from virgin plastic feedstocks, which means only 2% of plastic was from recycled materials[4]. The Plastic Packaging Tax is a way of incentivising manufactures and businesses to use post consumer waste. Under the new tax that comes into place in April 2022, any plastics that are made from less than 30% recycled materials will be charged at £220 per tonne[5] - this could be a huge overhead for some larger organisations that are currently using plastic made from virgin feedstocks. This tax should bring around meaningful change in business behaviour and drive investment into the infrastructure for recycling; currently recycling rates of plastic are far from ideal and the Plastic Packaging Tax should give it the push it needs to make real change.

Of the 78 million tonnes of plastic used in the EU in 2018, 32% was leaked into the environment, polluting the planet and causing extreme damage, 40% ended up in landfill, 14% was incinerated, and just 14% was collected for recycling. Only 2% of the plastic that was collected for recycling was used to create the same or similar of the original product and 8% was used to create lower-value, or other products[6].

With most plastics used only once, and such a high percentage of it ending up polluting our environment, something has to be done to bring around change. 8 million tonnes of plastic are leaked into the ocean every year, and if that continues, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, so the Plastic Packaging Tax brings hope for the future of plastic recycling and disposal[6].

The expert's key takeaways:

When it comes to sustainability and protecting the planet, everyone can agree that it has to come from a place of authenticity; and brands have to genuinely want to use their business for good. But before brands can do anything, they must ask hard questions of themselves and what they are currently doing in order to be better. Telling stories of sustainability and planet protection will change consumer behaviour, and doing so in an authentic way defines brand voice, making your brand synonymous with sustainability.

What steps do you take as a business to communicate your sustainability story? Have you seen consumer habits change from efficiency or price focused to environmental focused? Has consumer demand changed your business?

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References & Sources

[1] - RetailX Sustainability in Retail Webinar -

[2] - Sophie Moule - Head of Marketing at Pi Datametrics -

[3] - Josh Pitman - Managing Director of Priory Direct -

[4] - Ellen MacArthur Foundation - 'Plastics and the Circular Economy'

[5] -

[6] - Ellen MacArthur Foundation - 'Plastics and the Circular Economy'