Numerous expert speakers will be sharing their top tips to improve sustainable practices and develop circular economies to appeal to increasingly eco-conscious consumers at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in late May

The retail industry has never been more focused on improving sustainability in its various forms. Little surprise, then, that this increasingly hot topic is reflected in the agenda for the upcoming IRX (InternetRetailing Expo) and eDX (eDelivery Expo).

Registration — which is free — is still open for the UK's premier digital retail show that takes place at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on May 24th and 25th. The thousands of attendees can expect to discover insights from experts on consumer trends around sustainability, tips to develop and improve circular economies and much more. 

This must-watch content is presented not a moment too soon, with time running out to halt irreparable damage inflicted on the planet thanks to global warming.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), formed of the world's leading climate scientists, issued a “final warning” on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions push the world to the point of no return that only rapid and drastic action can avert.

Indeed, the United Nations secretary general, AntÃ_nio Guterres, called the report “a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe”. And, referencing a film that won seven awards at the 2023 Oscars, the Portuguese added: “Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.”

Rapid and drastic action needed

David Brower, the late American conservationist and founder of Friends of the Earth, among other environmental organisations, coined a phrase many leaders use today. “There is no business on a dead planet,” wrote Brower, who died in 2000. He also stated: “We are no longer inheriting the Earth from our parents; we are stealing it from our children.”

Perhaps these quotations will be echoed at IRX in some discussions addressing sustainability-related topics. So here is a quick look at some of the highlights of unmissable talks in this area at the NEC in May.

For example, Returns: balancing customer experience, sustainability, cost and brand ethos, will feature input from Boots IT Director Michelle Kearns and Lewe Goldmann, Supply Chain & Operations Director at grooming company Cloud Nine Hair. 

The moderator for that session is Quaid Combstock, an operations consultant. And he will be back on stage interviewing Ben Dreyer, Boden's Strategy, Sustainability and Operations Director, in a fireside chat titled Growing from small to medium-sized while staying true to your values.

Dreyer has been with the clothing brand Boden for over a quarter of a century and helped grow the company from £10 million to £350 million. He will have plenty to say about how sustainability and digital retail have evolved in the last two-and-a-half decades. 

In addition to the fireside chat, Dreyer is due to appear on a panel session named The conscious consumer: encouraging consumers to make informed choices. He will appear alongside Chloe Thomas, Founder of eCommerce MasterPlan, and also Joanna Yarrow, M&C Saatchi Group's Chief Sustainability Officer.

Knowledge sharing on stage

Elsewhere on the schedule, a couple of sessions examine the circular economy. According to the European Parliament's definition, a circular economy is “a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.” Essentially, it is an economy designed to remove waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature to reduce emissions.

Worryingly, however, the most recent Circularity Gap Report, published in 2021, found that the world had an 8.6% circularity — a fall from 9.1% in 2018. For the planet to remain “liveable and thriving”, global circularity must double to 17%.

Therefore, more knowledge sharing on this subject is vital. An IRX session moderated by Andrew Busby, Founder of analyst organisation Retail Reflection, and featuring Matt Hanrahan, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Reskinned, will help. The latter company, established in 2021, helps fashion brands achieve their sustainability goals and maximise the life of clothing and footwear by creating a circular economy model that incentivises owners to trade in unloved garments with a simple, hassle-free take-back process. The discussion is called Sustainability vs. circularity: what does sustainability mean to your customer?

Similarly, Millie Pearson, Chief Operating Officer of premium shopping firm The Edit LDN, is designed to provide tips to retailers seeking to improve their sustainability and circularity. Event attendees will want to make time for her talk, Breaking into the circular economy: tap into the reselling market using social selling.

Pearson will also feature in a panel session, The re-cycle revolution: building a rental platform to widen your reach. The Founder and Editor of Green Retail World, Ben Sillitoe, will quiz her. 

Ultimately, with consumers becoming increasingly eco-conscious, IRX and eDX attendees won't want to miss out on these sessions to improve sustainability and risk the cold shoulder.

IRX & eDX takes place on May 24th and 25th at the NEC, Birmingham. 

Register for free here now. #IRX23 #eDX23