Win-win-win with ‘Green-tail’ Design

The measurement of performance of retail companies has moved from the traditional measure of Economic Profitability to a combination of Social and Ecological performance added to it. Aptly called the ‘Triple Bottom line’ (TBL) it is based on three pillars of performance – People, Planet and Profit which are incidentally the goals of Sustainability. Surender Gnanaolivu, executive vice president & head – store development & presentation, Mahindra Retail Private Limited presents some inspiring stories from retailers across the world  who have adopted sustainability,  also known as ‘green-tailing’, and the impact retail design can have on it.Trends

As one of the most notable evolutions of the past decade, consumers have become progressively more concerned about their environmental and the collateral social impact on communities. Sustainable retailing, also called ‘green-tailing’, is rapidly becoming a core consideration and retailers are having to adopt TBL as part of their business practice.

Trends-2One big impact of TBL is the significant change in the approach to design and development of retail environments and is evolving to be called ‘Green-tail Design’. This approach endeavors to reduce the ‘Carbon Footprint‘ (the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the retailer) of stores by carefully managing consumption of energy and non-renewable materials using the 3Rs of sustainability-‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle‘. Amidst the race for profitability, some retailers stand out of the crowd by committing to reduce their carbon footprint using path breaking Sustainable Green-tail Design strategies with inspiring world class execution to attain not just cost efficiency but great differentiated brand experience.


Starbucks leads the way by being awarded The World Environment Center Gold Medal for Sustainable Development in the specialty coffee industry for contributing positively to their communities and environment. Having adopted Green-tail Design in their stores they use the 3Rs to create fabulous looking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified sustainable stores. The famous Time Square store, inspired by the rich history of the area’s Theatre District, uses  100 per cent LED lamps for its theatrical lighting with 40 per cent lower consumption. The Starbucks store at Church & Gerrard in Toronto has 75 per cent waste diversion from landfill, 30 per cent water usage reduction, 25 per cent energy optimization, 90 per cent of the store is naturally lit with daylight and the interior uses locally reclaimed art décor creating a unique coffee drinking experience for customers. Starbucks’ green-tail design approach to sustainability is not just company policy; it is an effort that inspires customers and restaurateurs around the world.


Timberland is the first company to be awarded LEED Gold certification for mall-based stores. They extend their sustainbility commitment into their products with a ‘Cradle to Cradle’ concept (reusing and recyling of raw materials) in the Earth Keeper selection of footwear that are made with recycled rubber soles, organic canvas linings and leather designed to be deconstructed and recycled. The great looking Timberland stores have non-negotiable sustainable store design policies. Their stores are constructed using 100 per cent  reclaimed lumber, 100 per cent repurposed stockroom shelving, reduced water usage by 50 per cent, 90 per cent of equipment and appliances installed are Energy Star eligible and 50-90 per cent of the construction waste on site is recycled. Their green-tail design policy is demonstrated in the Chennai store furniture, cash counter and the ornate door  which are made from reclaimed wood.

Trends-5Anthropologie is a US chain of fashion stores that offer an innovative and eclectic mix of arty sustainable  merchandise in a sustainable store environment. The Lifestyle merchandising brand has a history of offering economically sustainable products from non-profit and fair trade organizations in the developing world like Cowl made in Rwanda or the Perfect Skippers Necklace handcrafted by artisans in Ecuador. Anthropologie’s famous store presentations and windows installations use creative sustainable recycled/reclaimed materials to prove that, when practicing 3Rs, you don’t need a huge budget to create eye-catching displays and in-store settings.


UK retailer Marks & Spencer announced what it called Plan A (during the launch their staff wore T-shirts that read, “There is no Plan B”!) to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015 and since then about 75 per cent of their stores were certified sustainable. Amongst them is a remarkable 195,000 sft ‘daylight sustainable’ store on the outskirts of London with  an  intriguing ‘wave’ style roof designed and constructed from over 1400 m³ of 100 per cent  certified sustainable timber beams which maximized the best use of indirect natural light. Demonstrating green-tail design the building components were prefabricated to minimize waste and recycle materials salvaged from the building’s demolition.

Trends7In November 2011, M&S opened its first international sustainable learning store at Phoenix Market City Mall in Bangalore. The 20,000 square-foot store features 15 per cent less energy efficient lighting, energy efficient air conditioning, water saving technology and high levels of construction recycled waste demonstrating the profitable use of  the 3Rs of sustainability.

Trends8Luxury brands too have been busy implementing sustainability initiatives. Since 1992 the LVMH group that owns prestigeous brands like Louis Vuitton, Kenzo, Fendi, Mark Jacobs and Bulgari takes pride in being the most transparent luxury goods company working to implement sustainability principles in production, packaging, shipment and energy consumption. In their large installations solar panels have been  installed to meet 31 per cent of the electricity requirements. Recently Loius Vuitton  installed a green makeover on their store façade. Called “Topiade”, designed by Gregory Polleta and Sung Yang of Gas Design Group, the installation is a lay-over facade structure designed to enable the renewal of an existing retail store building without major reconstructions. The vertical garden of  living greenery planted onto the front and side walls of flagship stores symbolizes its commitment to green-tail design.


Back home, brands like Puma and Tata’s Tashi  have taken bold first steps in integrating sustainability into their business models and store design strategies followed through with excellent execution thus evangelizing green-tail design practise and putting India onto the global sustainability map. Puma recently unveiled its world’s first  Sustainable store in Bengaluru with an elaborate implementation using architecture and technology. Path breaking initiative like sub-terrain cooled AC, Solar PV cells, composite woods blended to create the furniture, low VOC paints, steel and the aluminium form extracted from recycled material, motion controlled LED lighting etc. were used to create a very experiential environment that is indeed a global benchmark.

Trends10Mahindra Retail recently made its TBL commitment with the launch of its sustainable Mom&Me ‘special’ store at salt lake in Kolkata. More than 30 per cent of building material used, like bricks and wood, are reclaimed and repurposed.  About 30 per cent of the fixtures and mannequins are made from waste and recycled materials. Internal signages are made from recycled canvas and reclaimed wooden frames with letters cut from waste MDF. boards. 100 per cent low wattage lighting designed with LEDs and T5 and correct sized AC units ensure 25 per cent reduction in energy. The effort turned out to result in a significant reduction in capital and operating expenses.

Fundamentally Green-tail design can be practiced In two ways- the ‘3R route’ or the’ Ecofriendly build’ route.  The former is about the efficient  re-utilization  of existing resources and materials (not necessarily eco-friendly)  and is likely to save capital expenses by 10-15 per cent on what they would normally spend. The latter is about utilizing new eco-friendly material which are specially manufactured and hence usually are more expensive and could push spends up by up to 40 per cent! Companies choose which method to follow based on their business and TBL objectives.

Owing to its broad reach, the retail industry is a great platform and medium to effect significant change in the economy, the society and the environment in a way that no other industry can. Thus we retailers have a great responsibility in the transformation of mind-set to accept and practice Green-tailing.

I have been inspired to believe in andpractice Triple Bottom Line and have seen great benefits and I hope this does the same for you. The secret of its success is simply to unconditionally Believe, Own and Act – with the objective of responsibly giving back what we retailers owe to the society and environment!


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Retailers Association of India (RAI) is the unified voice of Indian retailers. RAI is a not for profit organization (registered under section 25 of Companies Act, 1956), works with all the stakeholders for creating the right environment for the growth of the modern retail industry in India. RAI is the body that encourages, develops, facilitates and supports retailers to become modern and adopt best practices that will delight customers. RAI has a three charter aim of Retail Development, Facilitation and Propagation.