Sustainable retail design


Sustainability has recently rocketed up the agenda in retail, but it still seems like packaging gets most of the attention.

Much work has gone into developing more sustainable packaging, and brands have been very vocal about communicating this to customers (see for example, Ecover, which has been very focused on developing eco packaging).

But when it comes to the materials used in the fixtures and fittings of permanent stores (and temporary events and campaigns), efforts appear to be thin on the ground, or at least, they’re less visible.

There are, however, some recent examples of brands using more sustainable kit, and in some cases, telling the customer that they’re doing so.


Sainsbury’s isn’t new to experimenting with eco building materials (like several of its peers, it’s experimented with eco stores in the past). But its incorporation of reused timber in its newly opened Mansion House ‘on the go’ store format (opened in February 2020) is more unusual: it’s not a eco store per se, and eco messaging is prominent. These things indicate that Sainsbury’s sees some value in reusing materials as a kind of ‘eco halo’ on its operations.

Provamel / Whole Food Market Kensington

Provamel used the prominent message, ‘This window is made from plants, just like our packs’, in its takeover of one of the windows of Whole Foods Market Kensington in January 2020. That the materials used to build the campaign formed part of the campaign itself is a brilliant example of a company amplifying – and living – its brand purpose.

San Francisco Department of the Environment

Back in 2015, this San Francisco Department of the Environment event utilised repurposed cardboard boxes to create a pop-up coffee shop. It carried the message ‘This structure is made out of 100% used boxes’. It’s admirable that instead of making the structure out of new cardboard boxes (which can be widely recycled) the event producers went the extra mile and chose pre-used boxes, further saving on resources.


To launch its new 100% recyclable bottle, in January 2020, Dove used wood and aluminium to build its Proud Of What We’re Made Of’ experiential activation in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Another example of a brand living its brand message.

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Sainsbury’s (Mansion House)

Sainsbury’s (Mansion House)


Provamel / Whole Food Market Kensington

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