Students are future of sustainable retail

Students are future of sustainable retail

October 07
07:23 2013

Kathryn Krevo / Contributing Writer

UNT students studying to be future business and merchandising leaders may also be the future of sustainable retail with the development of the Global Digital Retailing Center.

UNT has become involved with retail sustainability through the Global Digital Retailing Center, which began last March and is located in Chilton Hall 353. Senior director of the center Richard Last said it is devoted to learning about digital retailing through collaboration between the retail industry and academics.

“It’s also not only about being sustainable, but then communicating and advocating for sustainability through the use of social media,” Last said.

Sustainable retail involves reducing the amount of water used during production, reducing factory emissions and finding ways to recycle products after their life cycles.

The center has begun a series called Executive and Scholar Lecture Series, and hosted its first event at the Gateway Center on Sept. 24. The event featured representatives from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Patagonia and TAL Apparel Ltd. in Hong Kong and focused on educating UNT students on the issues of sustainability in the global apparel industry.

Ryan Young, vice president of the SAC located in San Francisco, said sustainability in retail is beginning to take off. Legislatures have begun discussing ways to create a universal standard for using resources, nonprofits are encouraging more companies to think about their impact and interest in ‘green’ consumers is rising.

Young said being educated in sustainable research as a student provides the opportunity to go into the workforce with the ability to make a difference from the start of your career.

“The earlier you can educate yourself on the issues of sustainability, the more impact you are going to have going into your future careers and lives,” Young said.

He said college students are also a key demographic that sustainable companies gear their products toward, and students are also the future directors of sustainability and of merchandising companies.

“It’s not just recycling cans anymore, it’s what can you actually do that’s going to help,” fashion merchandising sophomore Katie Blackwell said.

The SAC was formed about three years ago and Young said it has gained more recognition in the last year. The SAC is an industry-wide group of more than 100 leading apparel and footwear brands around the world, including Burberry, Columbia, Levi’s, Nike and Target.

The organization’s current focus is the Higg Index, which allows everyone to use the same method of assessing sustainability, with the goal of becoming the industry’s standard for sustainability.

“The way that our economic system is truly set up is that companies are motivated to sell more and more products,” Young said. “Bringing sustainability into that equation is really critical because of the impact that we have on the planet and on the workers who are associated with making those products.”

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