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Net Zero Leaders in the Retail Industry


The global retail industry, with its vast and intricate supply chains, carries a significant environmental burden. According to a 2018 report, the sector is responsible for an annual emission of 3.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) – roughly equivalent to the entire EU’s emissions. Against this formidable backdrop, several retail leaders are charting an audacious path towards net-zero carbon emissions. In this piece, we will delve deeper into the environmental journeys of three such pioneers: IKEA, Patagonia, and Natura & Co, looking at what they do, their business models, and how they are becoming champions of sustainability.


IKEA – Building a Better Future with Flat-pack Furniture

IKEA is a multinational conglomerate known for its modernist designs for various types of appliances and furniture, which are sold in ready-to-assemble formats. Its business model is centred around providing functional, well-designed products at low costs, which is achieved through a combination of bulk purchasing, long-term supplier contracts, and an efficient, scalable design and manufacturing process.

IKEA has made a bold commitment to become a climate-positive business by 2030. In other words, IKEA is committed to removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits, thus doing its part to combat the looming threat of climate change.

Actions IKEA is Taking:

  • Renewable Energy: In a bid to transition away from fossil fuels, IKEA has invested a staggering €2.5 billion in renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar power. The aim is to produce more renewable energy than the company consumes by 2020. This not only helps IKEA to reduce its carbon footprint significantly but also stimulates local economies by creating job opportunities and fostering regional development.
  • Sustainable Materials: IKEA is a staunch advocate for sustainability within its product range. The company has set ambitious goals for its materials sourcing: by 2020, 60% of IKEA’s product range will be made from renewable materials, and the company aims to reach 100% by 2030. This strategy helps to reduce the demand for virgin materials, preserving forests and habitats around the world.
  • Circular Business Model: IKEA has embraced a circular business model, aiming to design all its products to be reusable, repairable, and recyclable. This not only extends the lifespan of IKEA products but also promotes responsible consumption among customers, thus minimizing the waste that ends up in landfills.

A Sustainable Future in Every Flat-pack

IKEA’s strategic and consistent green initiatives showcase the company’s profound commitment to a sustainable future. By championing renewable energy, sustainable materials, and a circular business model, IKEA is setting a precedent for the entire retail industry. The company’s commitment to sustainable practices demonstrates a promising path to a greener future where consumers can enjoy affordable, stylish, and environmentally friendly products.

Patagonia – Crafting a Greener Outdoors

Patagonia is an American outdoor clothing company that has long been synonymous with environmental stewardship. The company’s business model is built around producing high-quality, durable goods, with a firm commitment to responsible sourcing, fair labour practices, and minimizing environmental impact. Reflecting its core values, Patagonia has committed to not only reach net zero but to become carbon positive by 2025. This means the company will work to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.

Actions Patagonia is Taking:

  • Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) Cotton: In its quest for sustainability, Patagonia is pioneering a shift to ROC cotton. This goes beyond typical organic certification to also require carbon sequestration, fair labour practices, and animal welfare. This not only ensures fair wages and good working conditions for local communities but also promotes environmental health at the grassroots level.
  • Repair, Reuse, Recycle: Patagonia encourages customers to have a sustainable relationship with their clothing. They offer repairs for their products, sell second-hand items, and recycle worn-out gear. This not only reduces waste but also extends the life of each product, further decreasing the environmental impact.
  • Investing in the Environment: Through its “1% for the Planet” initiative, Patagonia pledges to donate 1% of its sales to environmental non-profit organizations. This commitment supports a wide range of conservation efforts, benefiting both local communities and the planet.

Weaving Sustainability into the Fabric of Business

Patagonia’s approach to business, firmly rooted in environmental stewardship, illustrates how sustainability can be woven into the very fabric of a company. By transitioning to ROC cotton, promoting a circular model of consumption, and investing directly in environmental causes, Patagonia is demonstrating that retail businesses can be part of the solution to environmental challenges. For consumers, choosing Patagonia means not just purchasing high-quality outdoor gear but also supporting a business that aligns with their values and actively contributes to environmental conservation.

Natura & Co – Beauty Inspired by Nature

Natura & Co, a global cosmetic group that includes brands like The Body Shop and Avon, operates with a strong focus on sustainable and ethical practices. Their business model prioritizes the use of natural ingredients, ethical sourcing, and environmental responsibility. They have made a bold commitment to become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2030, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement’s target.

Actions Natura & Co is Taking:

  • Carbon Neutral: Natura & Co achieved carbon-neutral status in 2007 and has maintained it through initiatives that reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions. This not only benefits the global climate but also positively impacts local communities involved in these projects.
  • Sustainable Sourcing: The company collaborates with local communities and farmers to source ingredients sustainably. This not only protects biodiversity but also fosters local economic development.
  • Refill and Reduce: Natura & Co promotes a culture of reducing waste. They offer reusable packaging and aim to increase the use of recycled plastic in their packaging to 50% by 2020.

Cultivating Beauty in Sustainability

Natura & Co’s robust environmental strategies exemplify a business model that beautifully blends profitability and planet preservation. Their approach to carbon neutrality, sustainable sourcing, and waste reduction cultivates a vision of beauty that truly embraces sustainability. Natura & Co offers an inspiring example of how retail businesses in the beauty sector can deliver desirable products while contributing positively to the environment. Their actions ensure that consumers can indulge in their beauty and self-care routines, knowing that they are also caring for the planet.


IKEA, Patagonia, and Natura & Co are illuminating the path to a net-zero future, showcasing how retail industry leaders can turn the tide on carbon emissions. Their innovative strategies are not only powerful catalysts for change within their own operations but also set an inspiring example for the entire retail industry. The actions of these companies serve as a compelling reminder that businesses can and must closely link environmental responsibility and business success. As consumers, we play a critical role in this transition by supporting businesses that prioritize sustainability. These retail trailblazers prove that a green retail industry is not just a dream but a tangible, achievable reality. They remind us that every purchase we make can contribute to the health of our planet and that together, we can build a future where sustainable retail is the norm, not the exception.



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  10. Photo by Alexander Isreb: