A new report by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) reveals how most retailers are currently missing out on massive opportunities by failing to understand the impact of the physical retail environment on their staff, customers and business performance.

WorldGBC’s report ‘Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Retail: The Impact of Green Buildings on People and Profit’ observes that green retail environments can enhance the customer experience and drive greater profits. According to WorldGBC Chief Executive Officer, Terri Wills, the days of ‘grey box retailers’ are numbered with the report focussing on how retailers can be empowered to look within their own properties to understand and monetise more sustainable physical environments that can drive profit, and ultimately strengthen the business case for greener, healthier buildings.

Romilly Madew, Chief Executive Officer of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and WorldGBC board member, says retailers that successfully embrace sustainability can maintain their competitiveness in the market for years to come.

Observing that the commercial office market has embraced sustainability with more than 650 office projects around the country having achieved Green Star ratings, and a quarter of Australia’s CBD office space being Green Star-certified, Madew says movement has been slower in the retail sector with only 33 centres achieving Green Star ratings.

Stockland now has 13 Green Star ratings for retail centres under its belt, and Frasers Property Australia gained Australia’s first 6 Star Green Star – Retail Centre v1 gong for The Ponds in 2015. Coles achieved a 4 Star Green Star rating for its Hallam store in south east Melbourne, and Kathmandu opened its first flagship Green Star-registered retail store during 2015.

Research by the International Council of Shopping Centres suggests that lifestyle centres, described as connected sets of uncovered stores with pedestrianised walkways incorporating nature, perform better than conventional malls, with increased numbers of stores visited and higher numbers of repeat visits. American retailer Walmart reveals that day-lit areas of stores deliver higher sales per square metre than artificially lit areas.

Research also suggests that customers are likely to buy more merchandise in stores with natural surroundings, and also rate spaces with greenery as friendlier, making them stay longer and visit more frequently. These customers are also willing to pay a higher price for the same product.

Madew concludes that the report should serve as a reminder for decision-makers in the retail sector who may be wondering whether sustainability is viable. As the business case continues to build, retailers who embrace the opportunities for healthier, greener buildings will ultimately reap the rewards.