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Sustainable Retail Design

H&M works to ensure its stores operate sustainably // Image source

Sustainable Retail Design

Sustainability is one of the most important, hyper-relevant issues for retailers of all types. Consumers are now demanding with unprecedented levels of enthusiasm and fervour that brands take meaningful action to ensure that their businesses operate sustainably by reducing their carbon footprints, limiting their environmental impacts and offering greener product ranges in their stores.

It’s no longer the case that operating sustainably is a privilege reserved for high-end retailers who have the luxury of being able to incorporate recycled elements into the designs of their stores. It’s now expected that all retailers will respond to widespread calls for more sustainable business models by weaving environmentally-friendly fixtures, materials, technologies and processes.

More and more companies are waking up to the need to act on this, but there are still knowledge gaps when it comes to the implementation of sustainable store design in practice. This blog post contains a collection of sustainable retail design examples and an examination of how they have been executed.

Examples of Sustainable Retail Design


Swedish furniture giant, IKEA, has become something of a pioneer when it comes to sustainable store design. One way in which it has done its bit is with the opening of a new London outlet, heralded as its most sustainable store ever. The Greenwich store has a wide variety of features including a range of green technology and a roof garden.

Sustainable community area in IKEA’s Greenwich store // Image source

The store, which covers 32,000 square metres, aims to be something a little different. Breaking from the traditional transaction-based retail format, it acts as more of a hub for the community with green spaces that will be open to the public and flexible working areas for local professionals.

IKEA offers instore learning opportunities for its customers // Image source

There is even be an area where both customers and residents can learn about how to go about living a more sustainable life – the perfect concept of a sustainable project giving back to the wider community.

Everything from the location of the store, which is more central and therefore closer to local transport links, to the renewable materials used to create the building itself and the solar panels which IKEA hopes will provide the store with 100% renewable energy, has been included with sustainability in mind. 


Lush is another forerunner when it comes to environmentally friendly, ethical retail. Its entire brand identity is built on values of cruelty-free products, fair trade partnerships and sustainably sourced materials. One of the cosmetic retailer’s newest stores on Lancaster’s Penny Lane is no different. Comment on the opening of this store, Lush said “as a serious campaigner for environmental stewardship, Lush delivers exactly what it promises by weaving their ecological ideologies into the very fabric of their stores.”

Lush uses lots of timber fixtures to reduce its carbon footprint // Image source

When executing the fit-out of its Penny Lane store, Lush took care to ensure that it was done in accordance with strict SKA sustainability guidelines. The retail design itself uses recycled materials such as reclaimed FSC certified timbers, brick, and tiles, in addition to eco-friendly paint to complement the explosion of colour from the cosmetics on display.


H&M has worked to incorporate sustainable initiatives into its store design at all points along its customer journey. Right from when you enter its stores, H&M positions itself as a champion of the environment by using relevant signage and messaging. It also provides shoppers with facilities for recycling their old or unwanted clothes in exchange for discount vouchers that they can redeem against their next purchase. H&M promises to recycle or donate any of the clothes donated into its stores to contribute positively to closed-loop economies and reduce the quantities of raw materials in circulation.

H&M incorporates sustainable initiatives into the design of its stores // Image source

To enhance the overall aesthetic of its store design, H&M invited award-winning designers Dalziel & Pow to deliver a concept that delivered on multiple levels. Dalziel & Pow commented that “…each of the till areas houses messaging that encourages shoppers to recycle their old clothing for a small, incentivising discount and, on the first floor, a section of the store is dedicated to H&M’s new ‘Repair and Remake’ station.”

Here we see that an eco-friendly approach is being adopted not only in the choices the design team make when purchasing in-store fit-out materials but also extending this by creating new areas within store layouts that are dedicated to sustainability.

Sustainable Materials

One of the easiest, most effective ways in which retailers can improve the sustainability credentials of their stores is by choosing materials and suppliers that are themselves sustainable. Materials such as timber, recycled plastics, aluminium and glass are all more environmentally friendly than other, non-recyclable alternatives.

Additionally, in specifying LED technologies for their instore lighting (be it product lighting, ambient lighting, illuminated signage or otherwise), retailers can dramatically reduce their energy consumption thanks to the efficiency of solid-state light sources compared with traditional filament or halogen bulbs.

A third way in which retailers can make their stores as sustainable as possible is by using modular display systems and equipment. Modular systems enable the creation of a wide range of merchandising equipment that can be endlessly reconfigured to suit new product launches, seasonal promotions, store updates and rebranding efforts.


Retailers of all types need to incorporate sustainable initiatives into their business models if they are to remain relevant and competitive in the eyes of their target markets. There are already lots of brands succeeding in this effort, creating stores that have smaller impacts on the environment and providing shoppers with ways in which they can reduce their personal carbon footprints.

For advice and inspiration about how to embrace sustainable design ideas in your next retail space, speak with a member of our team here.