Europe's environmental footprint is one of the largest on the planet. If the rest of the world lived like Europeans, it would require the resources of more than two and a half earths to support all of us. As such, everyone in society has a role to play in moving towards more sustainable consumption, including retailers.
The retail sector itself represents a considerable portion of the EU's GDP – approximately 11%. Therefore, achieving sustainable development can be contributed in a huge way by a reduced environmental footprint from retailers.
It is in shops that millions of Europeans citizens look for the products they need and want on a daily basis. And, increasingly, these citizens are looking for more information on the environmental aspects of these products. In fact, according to a Eurobarometer survey, 8 out of 10 citizens consider the environmental impact of a product when they decide which to purchase. It is therefore crucial that the best possible information is provided to consumers in order to empower them to purchase better, greener products when they shop.
To help achieve this, previous Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, together with representatives of EuroCommerce and the European Retail Round Table (ERRT), launched the Retail Forum on 3 March 2009.
The creation of the Retail Forum represents a significant contribution in the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy, presented by the Commission in July 2008.
The Retail Forum is a multi-stakeholder platform set up in order to exchange best practices on sustainability in the European retail sector and to identify opportunities and barriers that may further or hinder the achievement of sustainable consumption and production. Over its initial timeframe of three years, the Retail Forum will bring to the fore a greater availability of environmentally friendly and energy-efficient products as well as better information to consumers on how to use products in the most ecologically efficient way.
The rationale behind the Forum is that retailers are placed in a strategic position at the intersection between producers upstream and consumers downstream to promote more sustainable consumption and production processes. In the balance of supply and demand, there is the need to do even more to influence demand. Retailers can play a significant role in provoking positive changes in patterns of consumer demand through their partnerships with suppliers and through their daily contact with European consumers. Retailers are a part of European consumers' every day life and through their partnerships with suppliers can have have an unrivalled influence on promoting sustainable consumption and production.