In recent years, climate change has had a significant impact on countries around the world. In response to climate change, customers and businesses are finding ways to implement and promote sustainable business practices. It is essential to think about how to achieve climate goals in an authentic and impactful way that aligns with consumer needs and values.
I recently met with Tom Tierney, Executive Vice President of Center Operations and Construction Management at Unibail Rodamco Westfielddeveloper and operator of Westfield shopping centers in the United States, to discuss the company’s latest developments sustainability survey, conducted with more than 6,500 Westfield buyers across the United States. The survey shed light on consumer behaviors and preferences, and what these trends and opinions mean in the broader context of sustainable retail destinations, consumer experiences and the future of the retail industry. retail.
Gary Drenik: Sustainability is increasingly a priority for consumers when evaluating where to shop and what products to buy. What has Westfield done to strengthen its sustainability efforts at its US centers?
Tom Tierney: Westfield is committed to prioritizing sustainability and environmentally responsible practices in all of its centers. In doing so, we have developed the Better Places 2030 strategy – which sets out our ambition to create better places that meet the highest environmental standards and contribute to better cities. We are able to create spaces where environmentally conscious buyers can feel good about visiting, through thoughtful designs that promote sustainability in our developments and the ongoing maintenance and improvement of these spaces, as well as our strategic partnerships with our retailers and local entities. Our commitments include reducing carbon emissions in our value chain by 50% by 2030, improving the eco-efficiency of our tenants and contractors, promoting public transport and sustainable mobility, the protection of biodiversity, etc. , better communities and being better together.
Drenik: Westfield recently conducted a consumer survey focused on uncovering consumer attitudes and behaviors around sustainability. What was the most surprising insight revealed by these survey results?
Tierney: The survey provided fascinating results about Westfield shoppers and their attitudes, desires and behaviors. Overwhelmingly, our buyers have a vested interest in sustainability and consider it a top priority when making decisions as environmentally conscious consumers or when describing their buying habits. In fact, one insight that surprised me was that a majority of our shoppers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly items, with 90% of survey respondents saying they would be willing to pay more for items that meet their environmental sustainability criteria. Additionally, 60% of survey respondents said they would be willing to pay a 10% markup for these products, and some even expressed a willingness to pay between 25% and 40% more.
Drenik: How do food waste and sustainability play a role in conversations about retail and consumer experience?
Tierney: Food waste and sustainability play a central role in these discussions. Through our survey, we were able to glean some insight into the interest Westfield buyers have in these topics and, to put it bluntly, the answer is that they care a lot. At a more granular level, 75% of Westfield shoppers have the highest expectations for food eco-consciousness. Our results also revealed that reducing waste is a key area of sustainability for our customers, with 61% of respondents considering it important. 37% of these buyers chose to encourage the reduction of food waste as the first choice for a subject on which our centers should focus in priority for the environment. Increasing restaurant sustainability was also the top demand for improving responsible drinking in Westfield malls. This focus on sustainability goes beyond food waste and into areas such as recycling, the use of hybrid and electric vehicles, and energy efficiency. According to a survey by Thrive Insights & Analytics, 38% of respondents said they would stop buying products from a brand that uses energy-wasting processes. This information further guides and supports our Better Places 2030 strategy and efforts to implement sustainable practices holistically, cultivating memorable guest experiences every step of the way.
Drenik: How do you think Westfield and the retail industry as a whole will continue to evolve to meet this consumer demand for a sustainable business and products?
Tierney: Sustainability-focused initiatives, products and experiences will become increasingly vital and prevalent among retailers as the industry continues to discover that not only is it the right thing to do to meet consumer demand , but it’s also the right thing to do to help our environment. and support better experiences for shoppers today and for generations to come. With our Better Places 2030 strategy, Westfield is ready to meet our customers where they are during this change. We are seeing a clear trend in how businesses, particularly retail and commercial real estate companies, are changing to meet consumer demand for sustainable activities and products. It’s no longer a “nice to have”. It’s a business imperative, and Westfield is at the forefront of that charge in our industry.
Drenik: What advice can you give to companies and brands that are adapting their business to become more sustainable in authentic and meaningful ways?
Tierney: In a recent Thrive Insights & Analytics survey when respondents were asked: “How do you engage with eco-friendly brands?” nearly a third of respondents said they spend more time with these brands because of their mission. As customers continue to ensure that sustainability and mission-driven brands are pillars of their retail decisions and behaviors, there is no doubt that businesses will need to grow to meet this demand. To do so authentically, this evolution must start from the ground up, considering the fundamental organizational systems and building operations that play a part in the larger sustainability strategy that companies and brands boast about. From the building materials and energy sources that power a company’s location to the partners it chooses to do business with, every decision matters and every step in supporting sustainability goals matters. Our survey results further illustrate this, highlighting the importance Westfield shoppers place on loyalty to their eco-friendly consumption – from the dining table to the mall checkout counter.
Drenik: Thank you for sharing these survey results, Tom, and for taking a closer look at Westfield’s sustainability initiatives, the prioritization of eco-friendly retail among today’s consumers. , along with your predictions and advice for the future of the retail industry as it continues to move towards more sustainable practices and a more environmentally friendly future. I look forward to continuing to watch organizations like yours implement positive change and put the needs of the environment and your customers first.