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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Eco-friendly managers and staff are the key to making a retailer go green, according to a study listing 15 of the world's top eco-friendly retailers in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.
Researchers in Canada, Scotland, Japan, Spain and France interviewed 200 retailers to look at best environmental practices and help the industry in adopting sustainable practices that can also enhance their bottom line.
The researchers narrowed the list down to 15, finding that Mountain Equipment Co-op, IKEA Canada, Walmart and Home Depot were among the list of the leading green businesses in Canada.
They listed H-E-B in the United States, LUSH, Marks & Spencer, Alliance Boots, Monsoon and Tesco in Britain, Musgrave Group in Ireland, Monoprix and Carrefour in France, Aeon in Japan, and Woolworths in Australia.
Using solar panels and geothermal heating for energy sources and creating "eco ambassadors" to lead initiatives were some of the "green" activities underway but a common thread was the involvement of staff and managers.
"There has to be a commitment and passion from the CEO or senior management in order to implement sustainable practices," researcher Wendy Evans from Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Retail Management, Toronto, Canada, said in a statement.
"Once you have that in place, you can roll out a long-term plan that will benefit your company -- and win you more customers, who are demanding companies be more environmentally responsible."
Other common threads in the report published by Ryerson University's Center for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA) were recruiting external advisers to help develop an eco-friendly strategy, assigning staff with environmental responsibilities, and regularly updating sustainability policies and achievements.
The study found that energy and waste top the list of what companies measure for environmental reasons, with 80 percent of companies tracking the amount of waste produced, CO2 emissions, transportation and water usage.
But return on investment was also a central focus, with both large and small retailers aware that sustainability provides a healthy return on investment and further differentiates their business.
The three main approaches to measuring success was cost savings, carbon emissions reduction and revenue generation.
However the report, which also involved researchers from Scotland's University of Stirling, France's University of Metz, Japan's Hitotsubashi University and Spain's ESADE, said it was important to recognize and address barriers that might prevent retailers from adopting sustainable practices.
Externally, these included being located in an area without recycling while internally this could include lack of a champion, complicated technical language and a lack of knowledge.
Editing by Miral Fahmy