In Hotwire's Digital Commerce team we specialise in working with retail technology companies so I was looking forward to hearing about the latest trends in this space at Wired Smarter in London.

This year the retail track of the event (which also has ‘Security’ and ‘Money’ tracks) focused overwhelmingly on retailers doing good for society and the world around them. Can profitability and sustainability go hand in hand? How can retailers use data to understand the problems customers are facing and develop products that solve these issues? How can retailers extend the life of garments and develop communities whilst doing so?

Fashion is one of the most damaging industries for the environment but three companies are doing something about that. 

Kresse Wesling, Co-founder and Director of Elvis & Kresse says it’s an industry that has completely failed but with the media attention on Blue Planet and Extinction Rebellion people are more aware than ever of needing to buy sustainable products. Elvis and Kresse has a ‘rescue, transform, donate’ philosophy. The retailer spots wastage like leather on the cutting room floor or old fireman’s hosepipes and turns them into beautiful, luxury products people want to buy. The company has made the decision to build partnerships with specific charities for each of their product lines. Kresse talked about the joy of writing cheques to charities when they calculate how much they can afford to donate based on sales. It’s a totally different philosophy on retail that is attracting customers because of good brand values coupled with the goal to take and make something from waste.

Richard Potter, CEO, Peak talked about how retailers can become more profitable and sustainable through AI. Through hyper personalisation, inventory optimisation and fulfilment optimisation not only do retailers lower operating costs but they acquire customers more sustainably, reducing material consumption and wastage meaning they can have smaller distribution centres and produce lower emissions. By being more efficient we can lessen the impact of retail on the environment.

Finally, Marie Petrovicka, VP of International from Depop spoke about how its community of Gen Z users is more aware of sustainability than any other generation. She explained how Depop enables anyone to open a shop in five minutes and how its young users are empowered by reselling items to extend the life of millions of garments. Depop’s goal is to help the next generation to transform fashion by providing the tools and technology to be a launchpad for their shops. By focusing on reselling they are reshaping the fashion industry towards reusing and adopting second hand clothing. With 19 million items for sale, 1 million sellers and 2 million buyers, it was clear this community is reshaping fashion.

Not every retailer is thinking in this way, but the discussion at Wired Smarter made it clear customers are starting to care more about the impact the brands they buy from are having on the environment. There are forward thinking players adapting their supply chain to make a positive change.