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Sustainability will take three years or more, say retailers

Sustainability will take three years or more, say retailers: Image 1 Two thirds (66 per cent) of UK retailers believe it will take three or more years to achieve true sustainability in their business, according to a major study of retailers' views on the subject.

Of the 1,896 national and independent retailers that took part in the survey, 73 per cent said while they had already made changes, total sustainability was still out of reach. On average, respondents hoped to increase the total of sustainable products in their shops by 33 per cent by the end of next year. The study was conducted by Spring and Autumn Fair, and Pure London.

"Our study confirms that the UK retail industry is passionate about taking action on sustainability," says Julie Driscoll, UK regional director for ITE Group. "However, there are significant barriers to overcome. To achieve true sustainability takes significant resources, time and investment. Arguably, it's a continuous process for improvement, rather than a destination. Retailers aren't shying away from that responsibility, but they are being realistic when it comes to how quickly the change can happen."

Last year, ITE launched the Power of One campaign, designed to drive small, individual yet powerful steps towards a sustainable future. "It's clear that retailers are changing," continues Julie. "Our study found that 73 per cent have improved their recycling or reuse efforts, and that 54 per cent have reduced the use of environmentally damaging materials in products."

Respondents estimated that to make their products sustainable they would have to increase retail prices by an average of 19 per cent. By contrast, most thought that customers would only be willing to pay nine per cent more for sustainable products. A further 20 per cent believed the failure of suppliers to act sustainably or transparently was the biggest challenge.

"As well as continuing our Power of One campaign, our future shows will be focusing on educating and upskilling both retailers and suppliers on sustainability issues, so that real change becomes easier," adds Julie.

This year's Autumn Fair takes place from 1st-4th September. Find out more at www.autumnfair.com