Are Macy’s plans sustainable?

Discussion
Source: Macy’s - “2020 Sustainability Report”
Oct 22, 2021

Macy’s is the latest apparel retailer to boost its focus on sustainability as customers continue to expect a greater environmental commitment from the fashion industry.

The chain has released a long list of medium-term sustainability goals in its “2020 Sustainability Report including:

  • Reduction of energy consumption by 10 percent from where it stood in 2018 (by 2025);
  • Reduction of water use for the manufacture of private label brands 25 percent from the amount used in 2019 (by 2025);
  • The introduction of lists of substances restricted from being used in private label brands (one for apparel, footwear and home textile in 2023 and one for non-apparel in 2024).
  • Making 40 percent of private label apparel brands from sustainable fibers by 2025.
  • Disclosure of all ingredients in beauty, baby care, personal care and home cleaning products sold on the Macy’s website by 2025.
  • Adding sustainable products to macys.com and focusing on initiatives to lengthen the lifespan of products.

Things had long been rocky for Macy’s, with the chain being perceived as a mall-dependent retailer without a strong differentiator in the apparel market. However the company has experienced a strong couple of quarters, which management attributes to a successful turnaround strategy that is pulling in new shoppers, according to CNBC.

As shoppers have grown more conscious of environmental issues, apparel — and fast fashion in particular — has come under fire from activists for its negative impact on the environment.

A Princeton study from 2020 cites the apparel industry as responsible for more carbon emissions than all maritime shipping and international flights combined.

While more retailers have been touting their commitment to environmental causes, some have also faced criticism for “greenwashing,” or insincerely pursuing environmental goals for the visibility and profit it generates.

On the other hand, despite the industry perception that issues of sustainability are uniquely important to younger generations, some major emerging youth-oriented brands, like the wildly popular fast-fashion brand, Shein, have not experienced blowback for their failure to adhere to sustainable standards.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:  Will sustainability be a positive brand marketing point for Macy’s going forward and will it affect how consumers see the retailer? What will the chain need to do to demonstrate that this represents a sincere commitment on its part and not simply greenwashing?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Sustainability is here to stay, and Macy’s commitment to the environment addresses the eventual mainstreaming of this trend. "
"This is where the industry needs more transparency and Macy’s could set itself up as a leader in this space, pushing other brands and retailers to do the same."
"I’m glad Macy’s is doing all this. But it’s only what a company should do – not an effort which will change their fortunes with customers."

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12 Comments on "Are Macy’s plans sustainable?"


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Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Sustainability in apparel is only going to grow in importance and will be table stakes within five years. This will happen to the detriment of fast fashion, and to the benefit of the resale industry.

I think it’s a good move for Macy’s and helps keep it relevant.

Retailers have been behind the consumer curve on these issues. It’s time to catch up.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Sustainability is important to consumers and it is important to the planet. However in most cases it is the icing on the cake. On its own it is not sufficient to drive loyalty or transactions and, without other factors it is not a particularly good differentiator. I applaud Macy’s actions, but it also needs to put the rest of its house in order. My message is this: caring for the wider environment is great – but first care for the environment in your own, incredibly messy, stores!

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

Sustainability metrics and tangible action plans that translate to product on the shop floor are critical.

Environmental impact is becoming more and more important to the customer and Macy’s move to push sustainability across apparel and beauty is a beautiful thing to see, especially around private label development.

This is where the industry needs more transparency and Macy’s could set itself up as a leader in this space, pushing other brands and retailers to do the same.

Good move for Macy’s.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I’m glad Macy’s is doing all this. But it’s only what a company should do – not an effort which will change their fortunes with customers.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Sustainability is table stakes for any major retailer still operating today. The bar has been raised toward making solid, longer-term commitments and Macy’s documented goals exemplify the trend. However unless Macy’s puts sustainability front and center in its consumer-facing marketing, most shoppers won’t be aware. Even though it could be a case of doing the right thing while not everyone is watching, Macy’s efforts will resonate with shoppers and potential hires who care.

Christine Russo
BrainTrust

I think the efforts are baseline and will probably not earn a lot of oohs and aahs from the conscious shopper. However any effort in this area is a good one and needed and Macy’s should continue to tell the story of their efforts and include a report card of their progress.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Sustainability is a broad and nebulous term, a lot like “natural.” It means different things to different people. If Macy’s wants to succeed here, they need to clarify exactly how they define sustainable, and then keep consumers apprised of progress. Otherwise it will just feel like greenwashing.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

While other retailers like Kohl’s have led the way on curtailing energy usage in their stores for a long time, the broader impact on water consumption and fiber content is admirable on Macy’s part. The question, as always with Macy’s, is whether it will resonate with shoppers as much as the store experience and merchandise content. As long as Macy’s continues to offer a lackluster shopping trip, outside of its handful of flagship stores, its push toward sustainability will not solve its underlying branding problems.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Sustainability is here to stay, and Macy’s commitment to the environment addresses the eventual mainstreaming of this trend.

The challenge for Macy’s and others is introducing and tracking new measures to assess progress on the various program commitments. Most of these measures are for data elements that have never been captured or maintained in any system. They will require field-level changes in operational software, if not new application suites. Organizational processes from planning and budgeting to sourcing and reporting will undergo significant changes.

Proof of authenticity will be the amount of organizational and operational change companies undertake to change how they do business, which, if seriously considered, will be profound. In other words, are the sustainability measures and reports an after-the-fact collection of numbers, or are they inputs that guide company strategy?

Trevor Sumner
BrainTrust

I think its a smart marketing effort that will ring true for its customers, but they won’t be able to make it a radical enough initiative that it will define their identity in the minds of their customer. Good marketing yes. Game changer, no.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Sustainability is certainly a “nice to do” for Macy’s. One could argue that it’s not the biggest problem the chain faces. One could also argue that it is a “need to do,” but – if that’s the case – then it’s just table stakes to compete and offers no long-term advantage or differentiation. Either way, it – at least by itself – isn’t going to buy Macy’s enough daylight to survive. If I look at the Macy’s closest to my loft I see lots and lots of shoppers buying discounted goods, poor in-store merchandising, not enough associates in the store, etc. What I don’t see are armies of eco-warriors clamoring for supply chain transparency. Those folks may be getting the attention, but they aren’t Macy’s target consumer.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: these are all vey nice — though as with any self-imposed goal, is there any penalty for not meeting them? But only if they come in addition to satisfying all the “normal” reasons — price, selection, convenience. etc. — people might buy there…not in place of them.

And as always — and this applies not just to Macy’s but any company — what happens when different goals run up against each other? Say, hypothetically, using stores as fulfillment centers means energy use can only be decreased 5% (or it actually increases)…then what?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Sustainability is here to stay, and Macy’s commitment to the environment addresses the eventual mainstreaming of this trend. "
"This is where the industry needs more transparency and Macy’s could set itself up as a leader in this space, pushing other brands and retailers to do the same."
"I’m glad Macy’s is doing all this. But it’s only what a company should do – not an effort which will change their fortunes with customers."

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