Retail Horizons: Positioning Your Sustainability Strategy for the Long-Run

Jessica McGlyn

Founder and President, Catalynics

It’s 2030. You are the CSO of a multinational Consumer Packaged Goods Company. In this era, technology has essentially taken out the middle-man and now people get everything from shoes to shampoo to sugar from distributed, self-organized networks. Goods are rapidly made and disposed of, 3-D printing is ubiquitous and consumers seek products that are highly customized to their tastes. In this new age, how will you help your company create a business model that delivers products and services with a net positive societal and environmental impact?

The Retail Horizons FuturesKit, a joint project of Forum for the Future, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), Target and Unilever, provides free and open-sourced tools you need to future-proof your sustainability strategy. The toolkit contains future scenarios and trends, which while focused on the retail industry, can be helpful to any sector that cares about its societal impact.

The FuturesKit materials include a self-directed exercises and guidance on how to use the scenarios with your team for specific outcomes such as setting your sustainability goals; testing a sustainability strategy and associated options; and performing a materiality assessment. Using futuring in these processes can help you assess and report your company’s performance in a broader sustainability context that links to longer term organizational strategy, something promoted in both GRI G4 and Integrated Reporting.

The toolkit can also be used to think through your innovation platform and conceptualize future-ready products and services for your R&D pipeline. At RILA’s annual sustainability conference corporate participants from across the retail value chain were presented with the scenarios and subsequently worked through ideas that might help them grow business sustainably in these different contexts. Some of the ideas generated included a personal curator service to create customized products; pop-up, off-grid mobile mini-malls that bring retail to under-served communities; 3-D customizable apparel printing that could be used at home or in the store. The innovation exercises could be easily adapted to undertake similar brainstorming for an individual company.

Finally, you can use Retail Horizons to engage your board in your sustainability platform. The kit contains short exercises designed to help the board think longer term, challenge pre-conceptions, explore uncertainties and risks in your business strategy, and build a common understanding of megatrends that may impact your business.

Many companies are using scenarios and trends to set strategy and manage uncertainty in their business (see https://hbr.org/2013/05/living-in-the-futures). No one knows exactly what the future holds, but we can be certain it will look a lot different than today. If you would like to learn more about how to use Retail Horizons for your sustainability strategy, contact Jacob Park at j.park@forumforthefuture.org.

Posted February 24, 2015 in CR Blogin Sustainability