Local Brick and Mortar Retail, The Solution to Sustainability

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By Kara Williard 

About

Kara Williard is a sustainable business development expert and winter sports channel development specialist at Best Deal Retailer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sustainability studies from The University of New Mexico. Kara is also a master ski boot fitter. She enjoys the outdoors and is an avid skier and cyclist.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY

“Living in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.”

The purpose of creating sustainability solutions is to improve the health of our communities. To effectively accomplish this, communities must find solutions for all three pillars of sustainability, which are:

1) Economic Vitality,

2) Social Well-Being, and

3) Environmental Health

With the recent outpouring of green campaigns, most think about environmental aspects as solutions for sustainability. However, all three pillars work together to create the best solution for quality living. Here’s how…

 
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WHY SUSTAINABILITY IS IMPORTANT

Sustainability impacts all aspects of our lives. By embracing the 3 pillars, we ensure our quality of life and the ecosystems on Earth that create the resources we need to maintain it. We cannot ignore this or our quality of life will erode and disappear. It’s important to note that the 3 pillars of sustainability rely on one another to keep balance. Here’s how they work together to create balanced communities that, in turn, create quality living for individuals living now and for future generations.

HOW SUSTAINABILITY HELPS TO BUILD COMMUNITIES

Strengthening local brick and mortar retail is the solution to mend disparities within all three pillars thereby ensuring balance. The normal business processes local brick and mortar stores implement to survive are inherently sustainability solutions. Conversely, online retailers do not practice all three aspects of sustainability so they actually erode communities. Let’s examine how local retail puts into practice all three pillars. We’ll start with the economic pillar, then discuss how this creates a social impact, and finally, explain how the environmental aspect ties it all together to create a balanced quality of life and strong community for all.

1. ECONOMIC PILLAR STRENGTHENED BY REBUILDING MAIN STREET

Rebuilding Main Street is critical to strengthening the economic pillar of a society because local retail accounts for a huge portion of the GDP, job creation and economic output on a national level.

“There are more than twenty-seven million small businesses in this country. They generate 50% of our gross domestic product.” 2

The economic returns of local business are unmatched when looking at the Multiplier Effect, and the recirculation of money spent at a local retailer. According to the American Independent Business Alliance,

“[For every] $1,000,000 in sales, independent retail stores generate $450,000 in local economic activity, compared to just $170,000 for chains.” 1

 
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Source: Compiled results from nine studies by Civic Economics, 2012; www.civiceconomics.com. Graph by American Independent Business Alliance: AMIBA.net

2. SOCIAL PILLAR SUSTAINED THROUGH LOCAL RETAIL

Social capital comes as a result of: sense of belonging, network, feelings of trust and safety, reciprocity, participation, citizen power/proactivity, values/norms and diversity. 3

Levels of social capital can explain the benefits of interpersonal relationships within the workforce at the individual and firm level. At the individual level, higher levels of social capital allow a worker to successfully pursue self-interests that still align with the workplace’s goals. Quality social relationships encourage workers and firms to seek mutual welfare and economically beneficial relationships.” 4

Maintaining these healthy social relationships in and out of the workplace reflects well for a community. Findings from Blanchard, Tolbert and Mencken found that local businesses are more vested in their employees well-being, and

“the concentration of small business was associated with lower rates of obesity, mortality and diabetes.” 4

3. ENVIRONMENTAL PILLAR IS REINFORCED AT LOCAL BUSINESSES

Environmental sustainability, within a local business, is represented through each process in a retail-value chain, from production of a good, to consumption, and all the way through disposal and waste management. From choices within sourcing, higher quantity shipping and delivery, less packaging throughout processing and delivery, recycling and waste management, employee benefits and policies, and direct-to-consumer impacts; local retail is much more effective in the delivery of environmentally sustainable initiatives.

“In 2014, 35.4 million tons of container-board were produced in the U.S., with e-commerce companies, according to the New York Times, "among the fastest-growing users." And that's not even mentioning all the additional plastic cushioning, foam, bubble wrap and polystyrene/Styrofoam used to protect shipped goods.” 5

Eliminating waste throughout the value-chain is an important process that local retailers play a part in. 

Because local retailers play an invested role as stakeholders and stewards within their community, they are at the forefront of implementing environmentally-focused changes.

“The small business sector is the driving force behind most economies and their engagement of environmental sustainability is vital to their own viability and the prospects of addressing environmental degradation and global emissions reduction. Small businesses have a major impact on our economy and the environment. So their adoption of sustainability is crucial both economically and environmentally.” 6

LOCAL RETAIL, A SUSTAINABILITY SOLUTION

Sustainability impacts all aspects of our lives. By embracing the 3 pillars, economic, social and environment, we ensure our quality of life and the ecosystems on Earth that create the resources we need to maintain it. The sustainability solution for balancing all 3 pillars for the sake of improving the economic, social and environmental health of our communities is simple: strengthen Main Street. Every one of us can do that easily by choosing to buy from local retailers more often instead of buying online.

For more in-depth information about sustainability, the three pillars, and the ways in which you can healthily impact your community through the support of local business, please follow along in the coming weeks with Best Deal Retailer and Sport Systems.


References/Cited Sources:

1  According to studies done by the American Independent Business Alliance, “On average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.” American Independent Business Alliance. “The Multiplier Effect of Local Business.” AMIMBA https://www.amiba.net/resources/multiplier-effect/

 2 Office of Advocacy, U.S. Small Business Administration, The Small Business Economy: A Report to the President, Appendix A (December 2010)

3  Scher, Robin. “Online Shopping vs. Brick-and-Mortar: Which is More Eco-Friendly?” AlterNet. Feb 2017. https://www.ecowatch.com/online-shopping-brick-mortar-eco-friendly-2247525362.html

4  Matthews, Richard. “Why Small Businesses are Engaging Sustainability.” Planet Watch.  March 2015. https://earthmaven.io/planetwatch/energy-economics/why-small-businesses-are-engaging-sustainability-PG1GsF6RTEei-KbcxcGYHw/

5  Graphic for the aspects of social capital here

6  Blanchard, Troy C., Charles Tolbert, and Carson Mencken.  2011. “The Health and Wealth of US Counties: How the Small Business Environment Impacts Alternative Measures of Development.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society.