The Earth Day 2024 Retail Top 5


Earth Day arrives this year in the wake of the United Nations’ (UN) climate chief telling governments, business leaders and the finance community there are two years to take the necessary steps to avert catastrophic climate change.

Talking at an event held at Chatham House think-tank in London on 10 April, Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can tumble, but it requires “a new generation of national climate plans” – and they need to be stronger.

Most of us tuned into the environmental conversation should by now know the science. Halving climate-damaging GHG emissions by 2030 is crucial to prevent a temperature rise of more than 1.5 Celsius that would likely result in extreme weather globally.

When you look at Earth Day in that context, some of the initiatives announced by retailers might resemble – excuse the climate-related pun – a drop in the ocean in terms of what needs to be done. But looking at it through this lens misses the point.

It’s great more and more businesses are getting behind the movement to be more conscious and careful about our planet, and the schemes, campaigns, and educational pieces being rolled out to mark Earth Day 2024 are important parts of a bigger jigsaw.

I’ve picked out some of my favourite initiatives this year from retailers and brands. 

Schuh sells old soles on the sales floor

Footwear retailer Schuh partnered with reworked clothing business Vintage Threads in the build-up to Earth Day. Its London Oxford Street store committed to selling special edition garments and a selection of other products made from preloved footwear and curated by Vintage Threads.

A total of 57 goods were on offer in the days building up to 22 April, ranging from outerwear, accessories, and homeware – the retailer highlighted the power of reuse and keeping materials in circulation for longer, and the proceeds from sales went to conservation charity World Land Trust just to further underline its eco thinking.

Co-op tackling food waste

The second example is not an Earth Day initiative per se, but its announcement a week before 22 April meets my criteria for inclusion.

Midcounties Co-operative has extended its partnership with technology company Retail Insight, to help it reduce food waste, which can be costly for the business but also a significant contributor to climate change. We’ve spoken on these blog pages before about efficiency efforts in retail aiding the sustainability agenda – and this is another great showcase of that line of thinking.

The tech enables dynamic markdowns, addresses expiration management, and offers more efficient donations to charities, while driving improvements in forecasting. Overall, it allows the Midcounties Co-operative, which runs Your Co-op Food stores across the UK, to sell more while wasting less. Win, win.

New Balance, old footwear

Manhattan Associates retailer customer New Balance has previously used Earth Day to launch new product ranges. In 2021 it partnered with celebrity sustainability advocate Jaden Smith to bring to market a pair of trainers, partly made with the brand’s Spinnex material which utilises a minimum of 30% surplus textile waste. 

A step in the right direction for the shoe brand, for sure. But it made more of a leap earlier this year when it rolled out a resale and trade-in programme, allowing consumers in the US to shop for “gently worn” or “almost new” New Balance footwear. The idea is to encourage people can trade in their shoes for credit against another purchase, and in the process prolong the life of products.

John Lewis packaging play 

To mark Earth Day 2024, department store chain John Lewis has become the largest UK retailer to sign up to not-for-profit Canopy’s Pack4Good scheme, which essentially means it is committing to source better packaging materials and helping protect critical forests around the world.

All signatories commit to ensure none of their packaging is sourced from ancient and endangered forests in their textile and packaging supply chains, and John Lewis’s name on that list has added some significant weight to the movement.

Marija Rompani, director of sustainability & ethics at the John Lewis Partnership, called it “a truly positive step forward on our journey to ensuring all our paper-based packaging is from a more sustainable source”. It comes after John Lewis recently removed paper delivery notes from customer orders, saving hundreds of tonnes of material use.


Into North America for number five, and just like last year grocery chain Kroger has been marking Earth Month with a special conservation-related campaign. Its customers can round up their purchases to the nearest dollar amount at checkout, with that additional spending going to WWF.

What is more, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is matching customer donations up to $50,000.

"Earth Month is more than a month of awareness, it's a chance to refocus our commitment to advance positive impacts for our planet," said Keith Dailey, Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs & chief sustainability officer.

Quite. In fact, Dailey’s comments provide a nice reminder of what it’s all about and resonate with UN climate lead Stiell’s warnings included at the top of this piece.

The individual initiatives are neat, and there’ll be plenty I’ve missed. But let’s keep this mindset throughout the year – not just in April.