The Retailer's Guide to 2024 - Driving sustainability and responsibility

Sustainability is no longer a buzzword, and a “nice to have” in retail. Consequently, recommerce, rental services, repairs, outlets, sustainable return management, and new legal aspects are changing how retailers operate. This chapter emphasizes the significance of these trends and their impact on driving responsible business practices.

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Driving sustainability and responsibility

Re-commerce platforms: A shift in consumer behavior

Re-commerce, second-hand retail, has increased in popularity, marking a shift towards more sustainable consumption. According to Euromonitor, Millennials are adopting the trend due to environmental concerns, whereas cost-savings appeal to Gen Z. Regardless of motivations, the trend is here to stay. Platforms like Vestiaire Collective and The Real Real exemplify this trend within luxury, offering pre-owned designer goods to conscious shoppers. By giving new life to second hand items, re-commerce platforms contribute to reducing the environmental impact of fashion while offering consumers diverse and affordable shopping options. Beyond the luxury segment, platforms like Sellpy and Vinted are key players in re-commerce. Sellpy streamlines the selling process, handling everything from inventory to shipping, while Vinted operates as a peer-to-peer marketplace, nurturing community engagement.

Sustainability is no longer a buzzword, and a “nice to have” in retail


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Rental and styling services emerge

Fashion rental services, led by industry giants such as H&M, are a strong trend in the retail industry. H&M’s rental initiative not only provides consumers with access to trendy. clothing without the environmental burden of ownership but also offers personalized fashion consultations led by dedicated “rental stylists” at the H&M flagship store in Stockholm. By opting for rentals over purchases, customers contribute to waste reduction while making affordable, high-fashion choices, underscoring an important shift towards more sustainable fashion.

Repairs boost sustainability

Incorporating repairs into your business model not only extends the product lifecycle but also creates new revenue opportunities in the aftermarket segment. By offering efficient repair processes, transparent pricing, and promoting repair services as part of sustainability initiatives, brands can enhance customer satisfaction, strengthen brand reputation, and capture additional value from existing products. Plus, it’s a way to increase footfall in your physical stores. Additionally, emphasizing repair services aligns with environmental sustainability goals by promoting product longevity and minimizing waste.

If you’re based in the EU or selling to this market, you will need to adapt to the “right to repair”, a political agreement making it easier and more cost-effective for customers to repair products instead of simply replacing them with new ones. This will result in savings for consumers, boost the circular economy, and support the objectives of sustainable consumption and the European Green Deal by reducing waste.

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Outlets: Giving fashion a second chance

Outlet retail is another trend that is changing the industry. Afound, a subsidiary of the H&M Group, offers a wide range of discounted fashion items both online and in stores. With a focus on quality and variety, Afound provides cost-conscious shoppers access to diverse clothing, accessories, and home goods at reduced prices. 

Afound’s outlet model boosts sustainability by giving unsold inventory a second chance, minimizing waste. By extending the lifecycle of garments and accessories, Afound promotes circular fashion, aligning with eco-conscious consumer preferences. Additionally, Afound’s outlets offer an enhanced shopping experience, encouraging exploration with regular rotations of merchandise and exclusive deals

Efficient returns for sustainability 

The leading retailers are embracing efficient return management to boost sustainability. Zara is one of the frontrunners in the industry that employs sustainable return systems to minimize waste and optimize operations. By consolidating shipments and maximizing product reuse or recycling, Zara reduces its environmental footprint.

Additionally, data analytics inform Zara about return patterns, enabling informed decisions to enhance product design and sizing accuracy. This proactive approach not only reduces future returns but also strengthens customer trust and loyalty. By prioritizing sustainable returns management, retailers like Zara can minimize waste, lower costs, and contribute to a more sustainable industry.

Legal aspects to keep an eye on

Digital product passports enable transparency

Digital product passports (DPP), advocated in the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), offer retailers an essential tool to address sustainability challenges. DPP provides a comprehensive record of a product’s lifecycle, including origin, composition, and environmental impact, enhancing transparency and accountability across the supply chain. By automating data compilation into standardized formats, retailers can facilitate compliance with sustainability requirements. However, implementation challenges like technological constraints and organizational shifts remain. Embracing digital passports presents an opportunity for businesses to enhance sustainability credentials, build consumer trust, and nurture innovation.

Want to learn more about digital product passports? Read our blog post here

ESG reporting beyond compliance 

ESG reporting, guided by the CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) and ESRS (European Sustainability Reporting Standards) in the EU, goes beyond compliance. It strategically integrates environmental, social, and governance factors into business operations, aligning sustainability goals with core objectives for competitive advantage. Robust ESG reporting nurtures collaboration, improves financing access, and attracts talent.

It also identifies areas for improvement, boosts innovation, and anticipates regulatory changes. Advanced technologies streamline reporting processes, enhancing accuracy and decision-making. Embracing ESG reporting helps organizations manage market complexities, drive societal impact, and ensure resilience. Collaboration, innovation, and ethical commitment are crucial for maximizing its benefits in retail sustainability efforts. 

Want to learn more about ESG reporting? Read our blog post here

European Accessibility Act: Ensuring inclusion 

The European Accessibility Act (Directive 2019/882) mandates accessibility for everyday products and services, benefiting an estimated 87 million Europeans with disabilities. By facilitating access to public transport, banking, and digital technologies like computers and e-books, the act promotes societal integration. Common accessibility requirements nurture innovation, helping both businesses and consumers. Key provisions cover a range of products and services, including smartphones, banking services, and e-commerce platforms. The act’s emphasis on functional requirements allows for flexibility and innovation, while solid enforcement mechanisms guarantee compliance. As of June 28, 2025, customers can seek recourse if products or services fail to meet accessibility standards, reinforcing the act’s commitment to inclusion. 

Read more about The European Accessibility Act here

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