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‘Architects & designers should put sustainable practices on the table’

By Retail4Growth Team | December 20, 2019

In a chat with Retail4Growth, Sanjay Agarwal, Founder & MD, Future Research Design Company (FRDC) talks about sustainability and how to make it a part of the store design.

Sanjay Agarwal, Founder & MD, FRDCHow would you define sustainability in the context of retail design?

Sustainability must be more from within a brand or organization rather than be a force or mandate. Sustainability has two primary objectives:

1) Following process or system of using resources in any form, that originate from sustainable resources and end up in a sustainable manner. This is more linked with the environmental aspect and how involved we are.

2) Sources planned or utilized that may not be environmentally friendly, but have the ability to reuse and recycle within our ecosystem. So that the net impact on environment in terms of disposal or wastage is bare minimum.

How inclined are clients as far as sustainability is concerned? Is there enough awareness?

In a nutshell, if you compare India and emerging economies, the former is more sustainable as compared to the carbon footprint created by developed nations. Our consumption of energy for lighting & A/C is much less. They consume more lighting as spaces are much bigger but they are bringing in mandate to cut down energy consumption. In India, many of the places are still developing. So, if you go to a Tier 3 retailer to create an eco-friendly store, it’s not his priority. The first thing is to create a landmark in the city with his store and be profitable, so store being sustainable & eco-friendly is not a top priority.

So, when it comes to the global scenario, there is a mandate & pressure of consciousness among all citizens to be sustainable. In India, being eco-friendly & stainable is superficial, a tag that differentiates you from the crowd.

In developed countries, brands are encashing this sustainability approach as everyone from millennial to older generations are respecting that effort, and ready to pay a little more. In India, awareness is increasing but the segment is very less. It’s always return on investment, and why should a retailer put in so much for a niche audience. So, it will take time, but more people will respect a brand adopting sustainable practices.

Any tips you can share on what brands/retailers need to look for making it part of their store design?

As architects and designers, it’s imperative that we see ourselves as change-makers, irrespective of a client having a mandate or not, we should put sustainable practices on the table. Identify & give him certain priority areas where sustainable practices can be applied and not just to make a project ‘green’ certified. Educating the clients of the economic, social and market benefits would help them understand our recommendations better.

Creating awareness, even if it's 40-50% sustainable, must clearly communicate the benefits. I’m sure that the client would be open to the idea once they can clearly visualize the benefits.

Minimising water consumption & material wastage, less volatile & harmful substances form heated topics of discussion these days. It clearly benefits everyone to use resources effectively with least possible environmental impact. A client needs to apply filter and opt for the appropriate methodology. We must create sustained way of designing, ordering materials and composites. It is all available, we need to choose and prioritise. Materials like paint, that come in close contact with customers and staff must be given priority. We must ensure that the store is sustainable in sourcing so that the store is sustainable in sourcing n prevent health hazards. When demands for sustainable materials will increase the cost for the same will stabilize or rationalize over time. Going sustainable doesn't mean a store must look woody or forest-like or just have landscape elements.

This interview is a part of VM&RD December 2019 cover story on Sustainable Retail Design. Do check out the cover story on December Edition and mail your views to editor@vjmediaworks.com

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