The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has forged a new partnership with internationally-renowned Australian travel and adventure gear company Kathmandu to help bring about a more sustainable future for retail.Since its establishment in 1987, Kathmandu has become a leading retailer of outdoor clothing and equipment in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Last week, GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew announced a new partnership with the company, congratulating Kathmandu for embracing a sustainable approach to the industry.

The retailer will now be working with the GBCA to develop a sustainability-focused design framework for its retail outlets.

“This new partnership signals a new era for Australia’s retail industry,” Madew said. “The retail sector is a long way behind the commercial sector when it comes to sustainability. Commercial businesses that have taken sustainability seriously are reaping the rewards. The same will be true for those in the retail space.”

Kathmandu designs its own products and selects manufacturers with an eye to minimising its environmental footprint by reducing waste, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing efficiency and product sustainability.

In terms of waste reduction, Kathmandu has removed all excess paper used in the packaging and transportation of its footwear, which is estimated to save a minimum of four tonnes of paper per year.

Kathmandu has signed on to the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC), an agreement between various companies and all levels of Government that aims to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer packaging by encouraging improvements in packaging design, recyclability and better stewardship of packaging.

Given that retail’s largest environmental impact is through energy use, Kathmandu has integrated sustainable designs into its new stores and looks for ways to improve energy efficiency in its existing buildings.

“Kathmandu recognises that minimising our environmental footprint and optimising our contribution to human health and community are integral to our business success,” said Kathmandu’s sustainability and community manager, Tim Loftus.

“We aim to incorporate sustainable designs into new stores by working with the GBCA and are looking for ways to improve our energy efficiency in established stores, offices and distribution centres. We believe that sustainability is a strategic business decision, and one that will open up new opportunities and reinvent the bricks-and-mortar retail experience.”

The company is also working with suppliers and international freight partners to optimise container use, which will reduce the number of trips that must be made, thereby also reducing pollution and fuel consumption.

According to recent studies, integrating green design in retail stores through measures such as access to natural light and ventilation, and choosing materials that are low in harmful chemicals, can boost sales. Research conducted last year in the US found that good day-lighting can increase sales by up to 40 per cent.

Another study in the US found that bank branches operating from facilities rated using the US Green Building Council’s green building rating tool opened 458 more consumer deposit accounts and had $3 million more in consumer deposit balances per facility per year over non-certified properties.

The advantage of incorporating sustainable features in the retail industry is not only based on the opportunity to reinforce customer relationships and increase sales, it is also a way to attract and retain good staff who want more pleasant, productive and healthy workplaces.

These benefits are starting to attract the attention of developers and brands all around the world.

“Retail customers are getting more savvy and are increasingly rewarding sustainability with their wallets. Now is the time for retailers to embrace change and reposition themselves for the new normal,” Madew said.

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