22 Megatrends that Will Transform Retail Sustainability

In September, we had the great privilege to attend the RILA Sustainability Conference in Minneapolis. Over the course of several days, we delved into a number of sustainability issues relevant to the retail sector. Now that we’ve been back in the office for several weeks, there is one aspect of the event that we keep coming back to: megatrends.

As part of RILA  and Forum for the Future’s Retail Horizons project, they identified 22 megatrends that will shape the future. While you can read about each of them in more detail in the free toolkit download, here they are in brief:

  1. Retail Everywhere - mobile payments, pop-up stores, and online shopping
  2. Augmented Reality - mobile and wearable technology
  3. Distributed Manufacturing - localized production and 3D printing
  4. Advances in Biotechnology - genetic engineering and synthetic biology
  5. Shifting Demographics - the “greying and browning” of America
  6. Urbanization in the US - resurgence of cities
  7. Global Economic Shifts - economic center of the world is moving South and East
  8. New Approaches to Health & Wellbeing - explosion in digital healthcare and changes in lifestyle approaches
  9. Ubiquity of Data - big data benefits and privacy concerns
  10. Radical Transparency - rapid increase in consumer access to data and information
  11. Self and Community Reliance - focus on DIY and ultra-local community
  12. Rise of the Sharing Economy - shift away from consumerism to shared and rented material items
  13. Empowered Consumers - access to environmental and social information, as well as social media, are changing the power dynamic between consumers and retailers
  14. Circular economy - closed-loop, zero-waste industrial systems
  15. Decline in Ecosystem Services - environmental degradation takes its toll on nature’s ability to purify air and water, grow food and fuel
  16. Water Insecurity - freshwater scarcity and price fluctuations
  17. Resource scarcity - as key natural resources grow scarce and expensive, global supply chains will feel the impact
  18. Time poverty - pressure for greater convenience and on-demand delivery, increased stress and mental health problems
  19. Geopolitical instability - competition for resources and at-odds ideology drive local, tribal, and national unrest
  20. Energy transformation - changes impacted by energy security, increasing demand, advances in technology, and climate change
  21.  Education revolution - new teaching delivery (MOOCs) and focus on making education more widely accessible and affordable
  22. Coping with climate change - direct impacts (extreme weather, sea level rise) and societal response (regulation, adaptation)

Obviously, there are a handful of megatrends directly related to sustainability, but the really interesting realization was that ALL of the 22 megatrends have sustainability implications. The trend toward distributed manufacturing (#3) and retail everywhere (#1) will have huge consequences particularly for energy and freight-related transportation. Urbanization (#6) will have a profound impact on transportation systems and the environmental burdens placed on municipal wastewater systems and local energy grids. Even geopolitical instability (#19) has ramifications for supply chain security and reliance on fossil fuels.

We’ll be further exploring how using these megatrends to plan for a sustainable and resilient future can help your business. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this question: has your organization thought about any of these trends may impact your success? If not, why not? And better yet: How soon can you get started?

We’d love to know your answers! Please email them to us at info@sustainabilityconsulting.com, or for quicker interaction tweet at us using hashtag #SSustainabilityC