New data from sustainable waste management company Biffa reveals that more than half (51%) of business decision-makers in the UK retail industry recognise their role in the circular economy.

The survey of 1,000 UK business decision-makers (of whom 84 were from the retail industry) reveals that almost two-thirds (63%) of retail businesses surveyed have an established sustainability strategy, with larger businesses being the most committed.

Key metrics for measuring sustainability efforts for surveyed retail businesses include a reduction in general waste (58%), increased recycling volume (47%) and a reduction in carbon emissions (43%).

Nine in 10 (88%) retail business decision-makers surveyed believed that waste management and recycling are important in preventing climate change.

However, retailers are struggling with the high costs and policies associated with sustainability.

Barriers to sustainability for UK retailers

While most retail businesses surveyed are aware of sustainability and committed to it, 63% of decision-makers in this sector consider sustainability to be their least important priority. This is compared to cost efficiency (92%), revenue growth and brand strength (88%), and data and reporting (82%).

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Small retailers are more focused on sustainability to capture a loyal customer base, and are adopting metrics on recycling volume and reduction of general waste.

Evidence indicates that the primary barriers hindering the retail businesses surveyed include sustainability cost (48%), competing business priorities (30%) and lack of infrastructure (29%).

Retail businesses surveyed identified the need for support for financial incentives (42%), clearer legislation (36%), incentivised partnerships (25%) and reduced regulation (26%).

Biffa waste strategy and packaging manager Roger Wright commented: “The retail industry is calling for collaboration between industry partners and suppliers, through incentivised partnerships and education.”