Although a greater number of people are now more environmentally conscious than ever, public- and private-sector entities must continue to lead the way in raising awareness. Following consultations with Living Business, Bahrain’s Kingdom Pride Center is taking the message of sustainability straight to consumers.
“Our major challenge is educating customers to be more mindful of their choices. This would include – but isn’t limited to – choosing eco-friendly items, and goods that are free of plastic packaging,” says Alifiya Rahil Husain, CEO of the Kingdom Pride Center. “This needs a lot of awareness and a change in mindset,” she adds.
In 2021, the department store joined Living Business, a programme aimed to help companies implement sustainable projects and which is supported by HSBC bank. The Living Business team introduced Kingdom Pride to a number of suppliers of sustainable products and also recommended that the store consider setting up a recycling programme in partnership with mobile platform ZeLoop. A majority of consumers in the Middle East – 65 per cent – say they have become more eco-friendly during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by consulting firm PWC. Approximately seven in 10 shoppers across the region say they engage in sustainable behaviour, outscoring global survey participants in this area.
Middle Eastern consumers who do not prioritise sustainability believe there is a lack of sustainable options (39 per cent), that product quality is inconsistent (36 per cent) or that they are too expensive (35 per cent). It is therefore important for retailers to put environmentally friendly options front and centre in stores.
Sustainability at every level
From new products to recycling drives, Kingdom Pride Center has since launched several key initiatives to raise awareness and improve its own sustainability profile, in line with the Living Business recommendations.
The store began with a change to its product line, introducing toothbrushes made from bamboo and toys made of recycled board, together with sustainable food-grade packaging material for the end user. Over the first six months since the products were launched, the store sold 207 toothbrushes, earning a profit of 75 per cent and winning positive reviews from shoppers, says store manager Naveen Shekhar. A similar number of eco-friendly toys sold over the first year, at a profit of 57 per cent. “We have built a reputation for sourcing quality and unique items that are also sustainable,” Shekhar adds.
As a second initiative, free cloth and paper bags helped signal a shift towards ending the plastic monopoly in retail stores. “As a retail store our consumption of plastic bags is at least 600 bags per day. By switching to reusable cloth and paper bags, we have saved over 18,000 plastic bags from being dumped into the oceans per month,” he says.
Finally, at the everyday level, the store aims to create a mindset shift by encouraging the recycling of plastic. In association with the mobile application ZeLoop, Kingdom Pride Center rewards customers for recycling plastic bottles with discount vouchers of up to BD5 (US$13). “We have tried to incentivise the consumer by making recycling a part of their daily routine,” Husain says.
She believes the store has made a good start in terms of sustainability. “Trying to introduce eco-friendly [initiatives] in a consumer store can be challenging,” she says. “However, with more awareness, we do see there is a higher demand for renewable products than earlier. As Bahrain moves towards a greener and more sustainable future, we recognise our role in achieving this joint objective.” Hopefully, other stores will follow suit.