From core to store - A qualitative study of how retailers translate and communicate sustainability from corporate level to physical store

University essay from Lunds universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: This thesis is a qualitative case study conducted in the context of the Swedish fashion retailer MQ. Due to the growing importance of sustainability the purpose of this study is to investigate how retailers’ sustainability work on corporate level is translated and communicated in the retail store environment. Further, it does also aim to explore how the physical space can be used to enable, encourage and engage consumers in sustainable consumption. In order to capture a holistic understanding of the sustainability translation process, empirical material was collected through interviews with employees within different organisational layers. These were complemented by store observations, one participant observation and document studies. Existing literature within the academic field of sustainable retailing is reviewed which together form a conceptual theoretical framework. This study deepens the understanding of the case and fills a gap in the existing literature when drawing on empirical material from the particular setting of fashion retail, which had not yet been investigated sufficiently. The findings show that retailers find it challenging to make sure that sustainability permeates the entire organisation and a filtering process is identified with the result of a knowledge asymmetry. What has been found is that there are two on-going sensemaking processes, where employees both at corporate and store level are interpreting sustainability. Here, the understanding of how they perceive their different roles in relation to the concept has been deepened through proactive and reactive approaches. Further, this study points out the store as a venue with potential for the retailer to show its unique approach to sustainability. Thus, the challenges of communicating the complexity of sustainability while at the same time relating to a broad consumer base are also highlighted. Lastly, while connecting to the changes in the retail landscape and the redefinition of the role of the physical store, this study reflects on the place sustainability can take in the interaction between consumers and store personnel as a way to restore the relevance for the physical space.

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