Before the recession, green building was top of mind for many designers, architects,
product designers, manufacturers,
general contractors, and retailers.
Best practices were frequently dis
cussed and analyzed. But the green
movement took a back seat once the
recession changed our focus from
how to save energy to how to save
financially. The word of the day was
not sustainability, but just sustain.
As we emerge into a positive
future, the sustainability movement
is again gaining steam globally.
The latest rating evolution from the
USGBC, LEED v4, emphasizes product
performance by rewarding the use of
products with Environmental Product
Declarations (EPDs). In Europe, the
Regulation on Registration, Evalua
tion, Authorization, and Restriction
of Chemicals (REACH) aims to protect
human health and the global envi
ronment from risks posed by chem
icals. As we delve further into sustainability,
the complexity is increasing exponentially.
Many store construction materials,
operational items, and merchandise on
the shelves have gone through rigorous
changes to decrease their carbon footprint.
Companies are spending significant energy,
resources, and time to adapt their products
and services to meet these environmental
goals. But the consumer is often unaware of
important material attributes, green building
strategies, and corporate initiatives.
Typically, the sole instore communica
tion to shoppers about green strategies
used in the design and construction of a
store is a sign or two in an obscure location.
Eventually, in the desire to constantly refresh
the retail environments, these are forgotten,
possibly read once and then lost behind the
latest merchandising campaign.
Let’s consider using technology to tell con
sumers about retailers’ sustainable practices.
QR codes can be incorporated into product
packaging or shelf talkers, store materials,
and store fixtures that give the consumer a
quick synopsis of the attributes for the mate
rials: the fair trade production of a sweater,
the recycling content of flooring, or even the
manufacturing process for a mannequin.
QR codes are easy to create from websites
within seconds. The symbolic codes can even
be designed to give a hint of the information
included within, as opposed to the strangely
patterned whiteandblack box. Color can
also be used in QR creation.
The code should direct shoppers to a cre
ative web page. Customers who have gone
through the effort to be informed by reach
ing for their phone, clicking on the app, and
scanning the code should see a branded
content message. This is another layer of the
retailer’s omnichannel. Perhaps an
occasional discount weaved into the
message is a deserving reward for
Another technology that can be
useful is the emerging Bluetooth
Low Energy (BLE). It is estimated
that more than 90% of Bluetooth
enabled smartphones will support
BLE by 2018. BLEs can be installed in
the store, in one or several locations.
Using BLE technology, a retailer
can ask consumers to “opt in” for
information pushes to their smart
phones as they walk the retail store.
Retailers need to determine their dis
tance of geofencing, the distance a
signal will activate on a consumer’s
phone, as well as the rate of data
bursts sent to the consumers. While
retailers can track where customers
are within the store and customers
have already come to expect dis
counts from these preapproved
texts, infusing educational product
data within the messaging can reinforce the
brand’s commitment to the environment.
As commitments to sustainable practices
are deepening and retailers are rising to the
occasion, they should tell the story to their
customer base. Whether through posters, QR
coding, BLEs, or a combination of these mes
saging opportunities used within the store,
the right mix of messages at the right time
can enhance brand loyalty.
Use technology to tell
subtle sustainable stories
green notes By Nancy Everhart
Here is an example of the creative codes that can be made
with a QR code generator, www.the-qrcode-generator.com.
Nancy Everhart, AIA,
CDT, NCARB, LEED AP
BD+C, is partner and
studio principal for Little.
She has served on A.R.E.’s
Sustainability Council since its inception.
Scan the code above or reach her at (704)