How sustainability is changing the way retail head offices’ recruit

With environmental impact firmly in the minds of their customers, retail head offices are looking for the talent to help them get greener. Head Office recruiter Sarah Hurley explains more about sustainability….

Unless you’re actively trying, ‘the green agenda’, and messages around sustainability have become impossible to avoid. From most people using a keep cup or reusable water bottle to ‘Veganuary’ shifting from a personal challenge to a permanent lifestyle for some, what was once niche has become everyday. Social consciousness is not just a marketing buzzword but rather a mainstream mindset. Retailers have made it readily accessible and easy for their customers to become part of this ‘journey’ and from this, social responsibility has become a major consideration in buying offices globally.

Fast-fashion businesses are in the spotlight, as their customers become more aware of issues around sustainability in the fashion industry, whilst still wanting to shop the latest trends. For retailers, in order to stay on top, it is imperative that they both make tangible inroads into a greener way of doing business and then convey these changes to their customers. The goal is to make it easier for customers to shop consciously yet to still offer them great value and choice.

To meet this demand, retailers are interested in the knowledge and insight these people may bring with them when recruiting Buyers, Designers and other key head office employees. They want people with about how best to introduce these necessary changes cross-functionally whilst still managing the bottom line.

As these retailers source and sell globally, they produce tens of thousands of garments and transport them by land, sea and air to fulfil their customer’s demands. So retailers’ issues aren’t as straight forward as ditching plastic hangers or using paper over plastic bags. From the bigger issues around supply chain and sourcing to less obvious matters around card types used for labels and packaging, retailers want to ensure their green strategy and message is conveyed at every level and function in their business. This means they are seeking out individuals that possess a knowledge of a product’s life cycle (from factory to shop floor) and its environmental impact, as actions in one function of the business can have a negative knock-on effect on another.

Some retailers are creating specific roles dedicated to analysing the business and make significant greener changes, such as Sustainability Managers/Officers or Sustainable Packaging Managers. Others are adding additional requirements to Buyers and Designers’ existing briefs.

So what can job seekers do to tap into this demand from employers and diversify their experience? As this is a relatively new function within Irish retailers, they aren’t looking for the employees who are the finished article but instead individuals who have perhaps done projects in sustainability in their current role or can demonstrate excellent knowledge or a keen interest in this area. What retailers want is candidates that hold with the skills of a Buyer or Designer etc. such as trend forecasting, sourcing, negotiating, and analytical abilities, coupled with an innate interest in environmental issues and a commitment to work hand-in-hand with external stakeholders to drive sustainability across the broader business.