Running a Sustainable Retail Business: Why It Matters Today More Than Ever

Are you running your own retail business? In today’s world of rising entrepreneurs and those who decide to pursue their own business models, we’re seeing a lot of startups, small and medium companies making their way on the market with outstanding and innovative products.

But how sustainable are these retail businesses?

While it’s important to nourish a company’s core values, place itself on the market, chase the dollar bills with a constructive marketing strategy, the cost shouldn’t be on the environment.

Plastic pollution, packaging waste, water, and energy misuse—one wouldn’t know where to start with all the environmental damage retail businesses can cause. Those more environmentally conscious owners who address these threatening environmental aspects are today’s heroes and business leaders into a more sustainable future. 

While sustainable retail practices come with some extra effort and dedication, they can actually make the businesses more efficient and save money in the long run, not to mention a huge impact on our planet.

No matter the retail niche, every company should take responsibility in sustainable practices, manufacturing ethics, labor treatment, recycling and being as eco-friendly as possible if we want our future generations and the planet to thrive. 

Rockay, a Danish sports apparel company, takes this mission seriously and tackles sustainability with every product they create, from Day 1.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Rockay’s founder Daniel Chabert, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and ultra-marathoner, about Rockay’s sustainable practices.

Retail Insider: Could you tell us about Rockay’s beginnings? What inspired you to create a sustainable retail brand?

Daniel: It all started in early 2018 as a passion-project. I’m an ultra-marathoner, so running was always a big part of my life. Honestly, I was missing the right features in my performance running socks, so I thought with all the experience I have in running and the team around me, we could create the best performance socks on the market. 

We started with just one pair of socks, Rockay Accelerate socks, and then we kept on adding more to the range, after extensive research and testing of each sock type. Our mission is to push innovation in sustainability and performance in a way where one doesn’t compromise the other.

For us, it matters that we don’t harm the environment, that we’re not using petroleum, but instead making clothes from waste that’s already left in the environment and not producing more and more waste.

We never compromise, no matter how long it takes, no matter the restraints, until we truly believe we have produced the ultimate in Sports Performance and sustainability. Our mission is to create a movement for change and call for sustainable production.

Retail Insider: How did you become an entrepreneur and what are the challenges you’re facing in your industry? 

Daniel: I was fortunate enough to travel around the world, Brazil and Australia, in particular. This is where I started to get into online businesses and gained some entrepreneurial skills and experience that served me well for starting my brand. 

I was devastated to see so much trash, plastic bottles and other waste was left on the beaches. I knew that if one day I run my brand, it would address ocean pollution and help with its prevention. 

We’re a small team of running enthusiasts, designers, and athletes who care about the environment. Collaboratively, we work tirelessly on developing, perfecting and repeatedly field testing our products. This obviously has its strings attached.

Manufacturing a sustainable product is not all that easy. It takes a lot of time, research, testing, and money to really accomplish that. Since we’re not a huge corporation, sometimes, we just need more time to be able to financially support the innovation of a new yarn or the new sustainable packaging solutions, etc. 

Our biggest challenge was to create high-quality performance socks that would really address all aspects performance socks should have, but at the same time to bear sustainable materials in mind, technologies, and partners. This is also what drives our work, so we never lack motivation.

Retail Insider: Why is the role of sustainable retail businesses important?

Daniel: We’re living in a consumerist society and there’s a constant need for buying new things that we don’t really need. Similarly, the suppliers also increase their production and launch new collections all the time without having sold the previous ones. So this is where we’re facing the problem of overproduction and overconsumption.

This phenomenon then leads to lots of waste that’s thrown into our waters, landfills, and ecosystem in general. We’re breathing polluted air, experiencing water scarcity and climate change more than ever before. Ocean pollution is a huge one, and that’s where we decided to provide our solution in every possible way we can.

If we continue with this massive movement of fast fashion and non-sustainable retail businesses, we’ll be in huge ecological trouble in the next decades to come. 

Luckily, we have lots of alternatives to choose from. It just takes a goodwill and a different mindset to really pursue a sustainable retail business model.

Retail Insider: In what aspects is Rockay sustainable?

Daniel: We try to be sustainable in all aspects really, from materials, technologies we use, to packaging and standardized certifications for recycling, textile, labor and quality management systems. 

We’re using 100% regenerated nylon yarn, called ECONYL®, combined with other recycled materials such as polyamide and elastane. ECONYL® regenerated nylon is a product that comes as a final result of recycling ocean waste, fishing nets, and landfill fabrics.

Furthermore, anti-odor technology called Polygiene allows for “wearing more, washing less;” this is a unique coating powder that’s added to our yarn and removes odor-causing bacteria and fungi. Fewer washing cycles and usage of chemicals and production of washing machines give our socks even more eco-credentials: saving water, energy, time and money.

Lastly, all our packaging is 100% recycled and it’s made from existing waste in the packaging industry. We’re also using a biodegradable transparent poly bag. This was a great solution that we found, as giants like Amazon demand the use of plastic bags for shipping, and they’re extremely harmful to the environment.

Retail Insider: What can businesses do to be more sustainable?

Daniel: Business owners and their teams can research sustainable practices relevant to their industry and see where they can contribute. Developing a step-by-step plan is always helpful. Reducing, reusing and recycling should be one of the main components of this action plan, along with water and energy consumption.

Going digital is also a helpful way to decrease our environmental pollution. The challenge here is shipping logistics and packaging. It would be good to have warehouses close to your target audience, so the transport takes less time and energy. The packaging is also a huge one. It’s really important to use recycled materials and biodegradable bags to reduce the harmful effects on the environment.

Retail Insider: What would you advise to other businesses who are also thinking to be more or fully sustainable? Any lessons from your experience?

Daniel: Just have patience and don’t give up. It won’t be easy at the beginning, that’s for sure, but take it step by step. There’s no way you can address all sustainability aspects at once. If you try to do that, you’ll likely end up with nothing properly done.

Retail Insider: What’s next for Rockay? 

Daniel: We’re in the process of launching full line apparel in June and July this summer. We will produce everything in Istanbul, Turkey.

We may experiment in the future with less recycled materials to make the products even better for performance. Some of the garments might have from 70% to 100% recycled fabrics. We are always working on a balance. After all, sustainability is complex, and product durability is also important.

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