Climate change poses ‘giant risk’ to retailers

New initiative launched to support Irish retailers take practical steps to become sustainable


The worsening effects of climate change pose a “giant risk” to businesses, with a survey suggesting three-quarters of retailers are concerned about the effects of climate change on their operations.


This warning came during the launch of a new retail sustainability initiative, Sustainable Irish Retail Action (SIRA).  SIRA is the brainchild of Sharon Yourell Lawlor of Think Plan Do Consulting and Claire Cogan of BehaviourWise.  It aims to help retailers take practical steps to make their businesses more sustainable. This initiative is sponsored by Vodafone, AIB, SuperValu and Tap Creative, and is in partnership with Retail Excellence and Champion Green.


The launch of the SIRA guide follows months of work by Sharon and Claire, whose research revealed that retailers in Ireland are highly motivated to make their businesses as sustainable as possible, but as is often the case, there are obstacles to putting that good intention into practice. Retailers revealed that they would find it really helpful to have on online ‘one-stop-shop’ where they could find practical information about how to be more sustainable and any supports available to them.


In response Sharon and Claire created the SIRA e-guide, which is packed full of advice, hints and tips, case studies and ideas, and provides links to supports and further information. It is designed to support retailers when they need to make business decisions by making the sustainable choice the easy one.  Download the e-guide from the Retail Excellence website here.


An accompanying survey conducted by SIRA between February 11 and March 3, 2022 among 232 retailers around Ireland has suggested that:

  • Three-quarters (74%) of retailers are concerned about the effects of climate change on their business;
  • 80% believe it’s important for their business to be seen as sustainable;
  • 77% believe they will need to offer more sustainable products and services in the future;
  • Six out of ten (59%) believe that trying to be as sustainable as possible will cost their business money; and
  • Over half (57%) believe it’s primarily the Government’s responsibility to tackle climate change and promote sustainability.


Duncan Graham, Managing Director of Retail Excellence, said “Climate change is no longer a passing concern – it is a clear and present danger for every single person on the planet. Retailers in Ireland are understandably concerned about worsening climate change and the giant risk it poses to their business.”


He said: “The retail industry has just emerged from the worst two years of trading on record, and now business owners – and SMEs in particular – have to contend with rapidly rising inflation, supply chain problems, and a nationwide staffing crisis. On top of all that, consumers are increasingly demanding the sustainable option, but that costs money which retailers simply cannot afford.”


He added that investing in sustainability initiatives was an “easy win” for the Government, which could rely on the retail industry to uphold the highest standards. “It goes without saying that climate change is a huge risk, but retailers, suppliers and consumers alike want to do something meaningful about it. The Government is making strides on sustainability, but we need to see targeted sectoral support if we are to have the kind of impact that is badly needed.”


Sharon Yourell Lawlor, Managing Director of Think Plan Do Consulting and co-author of the SIRA guide, said: “It is clear from our research that business owners understand how critically important it is for them to operate in a sustainable fashion. The launch of SIRA shows just how committed the industry is to sustainability, and we are looking forward to building on this strong start with meaningful action.”


Claire Cogan, Founder of BehaviourWise and co-author of the SIRA guide, said: “The SIRA guide contains a number of handy tips for SME owners looking to make a difference. These include:

  • Source locally wherever possible. This automatically reduces your carbon footprint, and supports the local economy.
  • Upgrade to more energy efficient equipment and be sure to ask your equipment suppliers to provide tips around ongoing energy efficiency practices.
  • Integrate energy efficient technologies such as QR codes into your communication touchpoints and switch out of paper as much as possible.


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