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Sustainability in the global shop window

Peter Jones (The Business School, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)
Daphne Comfort (The Business School, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)
David Hillier (The Centre for Police Sciences, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 29 March 2011




The aims of this paper are to provide an exploratory general review of both the sustainability agendas being publicly reported by the world's leading retailers and the nature of the reporting process and to offer some wider reflections on the ways these retailers are currently addressing and pursuing sustainability agendas.


The paper begins with a short discussion of the characteristics of sustainability. The paper draws its empirical material from the most recent sustainability reports and information posted on the internet by eight of the world's top ten retailers.


The findings reveal that while there is considerable variation in the structure of the retailers' sustainability reports, three broad sets of themes can be identified. Namely, the environmental, social and economic issues the retailers report on, how these issues are reported, and the role and importance of sustainability within companies and to their business. More critically, it is argued that the world's leading retailers are, at best, adopting a “weak” model of sustainability and that in pursuing continuing growth they are ignoring the fact that the present patterns of consumption are unsustainable in the long term.


The paper provides an accessible review of, and some reflections on, the sustainability agendas being pursued by some of the world's leading retailers and as such it will interest academics and those working in management positions within the retail industry.



Jones, P., Comfort, D. and Hillier, D. (2011), "Sustainability in the global shop window", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 256-271.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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