Can the retail fashion industry really be sustainable? Shippit thinks it can.

Blog by Simon Zipperlen, Senior Technical Support Engineer, Shippit


You see the retail fashion industry as cheap throwaway clothing, wasteful packaging and polluting deliveries right? You know it’s naughty but “what’s the alternative?” so you swipe-n-buy, click-n-order, and wish it could be different. Can the retail fashion industry really be sustainable? Shippit thinks it can which is why we were a sponsor of the NORA (National Online Retailers Association) Sustainable Retail Go! conference in Sydney in May ’23 hosting a discussion for retailers on building trust that sustainability can be real as opposed to just greenwashing.

Shippit finds the best shipping options for retailers, traditionally this has been the fastest or cheapest option but Shippit believe we can also collectively provide greener options. There is consumer demand for green options, so that we can feel good not guilty when we buy, and put our dollars where they are driving sustainability rather than damaging consumption. A growing green consumer aspirational demand is waiting to be met, this is an opportunity, a new market, and that’s what Sustainable Retail Go! looked to address.

The fact that Sustainable Retail Go! happened at all is quite remarkable. A room packed full of leaders in clothing, retail and fashion is not what has traditionally been seen by consumers as a focus for sustainability but “these times they are a changing” and now it can be. In parallel with consumer demand for green choices there are internationally agreed targets to be met for greenhouse gas emissions. Green essentially means reducing the carbon cost of everything we do.

Another global initiative, The Greenhouse Gas Protocol defines carbon emissions as: scope 1 (self generated), scope 2 (purchased e.g. power), and scope 3 (transportation of goods, use of goods, end of life recycling). Scope 3 is therefore where Shippit can provides real value through initiatives to reduce the carbon cost of deliveries and on reporting, and validating it too, so that all the benefits of increasingly decarbonising operations are realised by the retail business as a key reason for consumers to choose them.

What is now a voluntary nice-to-have for premium brands will become a government mandated requirement for all. Retailers innovating now into the green space will have a head start and be in a position to capitalise on the market opportunity rather than being hit with the costs of being ill-prepared.

In Australia, government mandated change is coming in the form of a directive from The Treasury for a Climate-related Financial Disclosure, starting in 2024/25 for ASX300 companies and will be required of increasingly smaller companies over time (2026 for assets of $500M, 2027 for assets of $25M, etc) so now is the time to get ready. Shippit serves 12 of the ASX300 currently (and thousands of other retailers) and, as holders of a vast mine of data on what parcels and packages are being sent where and how, are well positioned to help model the true carbon cost of the Australian supply chain and beyond.

There has been a global movement across all businesses sectors for Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance (ESG) measures for a more responsible way to measure and focus business activity. The UN has laid out frameworks on where to focus through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which contains Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of relevance to retail such as:

  • SDG9 9 “Industry, innovation & infrastructure” including CO2 emissions per unit of value added;

  • SDG12: “Responsible consumption and production”: including “by 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse”;

  • SDG13: “Climate action”: including “Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions”.

Shippit is excited to help retailers with these 3 key Sustainable Development Goals, and others, which in turn will have us all be ready for the mandated reporting that is to come. Rather than being seen as an obligation this is more wisely viewed as the natural consequence of addressing growing consumer desire to be able to make a difference, to be the solution not the problem, to be the desired opportunity for consumers to put their money where it feels good, to show off about it to their peers and swing the market in the direction of Environmental, Social, and Governance values and practices that are real and effective. Companies that are ready and blazing the trail will be capitalising on the opportunity, sustainability can be a win win.