Reimagine retail through a sustainability lens

The retail C-suite is emerging from a challenge only few could imagine. With the global pandemic, the industry has never undergone such a colossal trial, and it also has never been presented a more powerful opportunity to demonstrate responsibility and resilience—and emerge stronger.

Now is the moment to adopt the environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices that will allow a company to thrive again.

An undeniable link between society and business came to the fore amid the global pandemic. With the first responsibility to employees, retail leaders acted quickly to protect their workforce and keep them safe. But industry practices, partners and supply chain weaknesses became apparent, revealing the fragility of an unsustainable supply chain. And the ongoing climate crisis continues to exacerbate the vulnerabilities.

This time of economic recovery offers a chance to do it better, to build it stronger and to do less harm. We see a host of new opportunities to recover and become ready to outmaneuver future uncertainty. Seize this moment and reset your business for a future of responsibility and resilience.

ESG the new management approach

ESG is the new management approach

Accenture Retail

Jill Standish Q&A on the new retail ESG approach

Jill Standish, Global Retail Lead

The datafication of sustainability in retail

Jill Standish, Global Retail Lead

A retail strategy that sets the pace

All industries should look at ways to reset and redefine practices that support recovery and growth—and retail businesses are in a unique position to do so. Retailers are hard-wired for change. From inventories that change daily, with sourcing that has to follow, to flexible store configurations and variable workforces, few sectors have such comfort with radical shifts. And there is great incentive to change. Many large challenges—if left uncorrected—present significant hurdles in the coming years.

Retail sustainability suits stakeholders

We now know factually and demonstrably that sustainability, when integrated within all business functions, can unlock new opportunities for growth. It is also what consumers, employees and investors have come to expect from businesses.


Sustainability is reshaping finance and business.


People’s values are increasingly becoming infused in their shopping habits.


Employees want to work for ethical, responsible companies.

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What had already begun to transform the retail sector before the pandemic will now accelerate as we see more consumers, employees and investors favoring companies that have an authentic ESG strategy across all business disciplines.

Sustainability at its heart is about managing waste, reducing impact and building systems capable of regeneration—technology makes all of that possible.

Sustainable retail technologies turn the key

Progressive CEOs are experiencing the enormous benefit of harnessing the speed of technology innovations to drive sustainability outcomes. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said technology will be the single most critical accelerator of the socio-economic impact of their companies.

Technology accelerates and enables the end-to-end transformation needed to make retail companies more sustainable. Sustainability at its heart is about managing waste, reducing impact and building systems capable of regeneration. Technology makes all of that possible.

How to rebuild a responsible retail ESG strategy

Retailers are in a powerful position to make changes that drive sustainability across functions while enabling a profitable future. Leaders across all sectors of retail are thinking about ESG not as a problem to solve, but as the solution to cleaner, more efficient, less wasteful practices.

The strategies outlined below show how retailers can accelerate enterprise-wide transformation, rebuild a resilient business and succeed in this new era.

Equip the workforce for change

Workforces today must be elastic—able to dynamically adapt to changing global and local conditions and carry out business in person or virtually. Read more.

Build a sustainability SWOT team

Know where you stand—the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats that can support or prevent you from operating sustainably and profitably.

Reset expense and operating models

All expenditure has an impact on the bottom line, and the environment. A zero-based approach can help you spend smarter and free up cash for growth.

Optimize the supply chain

Retailers that successfully emerge will be those who develop new supply chain designs with agility and resilience to future-proof operations. Read more.

Source smartly and responsibly

Next-generation product creation, development and sourcing can help you embed lean, responsible ESG practices and agility from the outset.

Capture the power of data

For deep insights and new sources of growth, make your data visible, transparent, trustworthy and accessible via intelligent platforms on the cloud. Read more.

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We are helping global retailer H&M deliver fashion in a sustainable way. Its online ecommerce solution, built and run by Accenture, uses only green energy, including wind power on Azure cloud, that auto-scales to reduce use to a minimum.

Designed to endure

The retail industry has proven decade after decade that it is adaptable and resilient. Recent changes happening in the world can serve as a wakeup call to rebuild yet again—but with new ambitions to be more responsible to shareholders, employees and the planet.

In collaboration with WWD and the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University, read our full report to explore ESG as the new management approach.

Jill Standish

Senior Managing Director – Global Lead, Retail

Cara Smyth

Managing Director – Sustainability

Frank Zambrelli

Managing Director – Sustainability


Responsible retail—Being great means doing good
Reimagine the retail workforce
Retail fulfillment—thinking local, acting local

Get the essentials

Read our reports to find out how retailers can demonstrate responsibility and resilience, and reimagine their businesses with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach.

The Big Read

20 minute read

Full report

Here is the full report, exploring why now is the moment for retailers to adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices to thrive


Short on Time?

5 minute read

Short report

Here is the short report, exploring how retailers can reimagine their business via the lens of retail sustainability to enable a resilient future

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