This article was written by Skye Jackson, General Manager Merchandise, Ampol for the August/September issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing Magazine.

I had thoughts of writing about post-COVID trends, and by the time I sat down to write this I’m doing so from yet another lockdown in Sydney. What this says to me, sadly, is that we’re not going to be on the ‘other side’ until we have enough of the population vaccinated and have a roadmap for opening our borders.

Outside of toilet paper panic buying and the rise of QR codes, it has been interesting to see how the COVID-19 crisis has acted as an accelerator for sustainability issues, with the pandemic being a humble reminder of the vulnerabilities of our natural environment. Not only have we seen technology shift towards low-carbon economies, but we’ve also seen increased government spending in this area through COVID stimulus and a greater strategic commitment from large companies, such as ours, who must start to pave the way for a ‘green’ future.

It seems every day in the news there’s a growing focus on future energy, and organisations talking to their sustainability commitments, such as Toyota, which recently committed increasing its hybrid vehicle sales from 17 per cent to 40 per cent by 2025, or Woolworths committing to being powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. In May, we released our own Future Energy and Decarbonisation Strategy, which included a commitment to achieving net zero emissions operations by 2040 and investing $100 million in future energy projects through to 2025. We’ve already made some great headway and are working on lots of exciting new projects, including the pilot of a green hydrogen production plant and our new partnership with clean energy storage start up, Endua. We’ve also partnered with Tesla to pilot a virtual power plant to help reduce our Scope 2 emissions and are in the process of developing a strategy to transition with mobility customers by providing electric vehicle charging services at our sites – watch this space!

More specifically, this sustainability movement has had a notable impact on the retail and convenience industries, with governments setting legislation to drive the agenda, including the Western Australia and South Australia state governments, which have announced plans to phase out single-use plastics. The ‘ban the bag’ movement, driven by social media activism and public debate, demonstrates the power of the consumer in this market. Consumers accepted the cost of buying them at the store and quickly adapted to taking their own ‘green’ bags (and remembering to get them out of the car on each visit).

A recent KPMG study found that over 90 per cent of millennials, as well as consumers over the age of 75 are prepared to pay more for ethically sourced products. This is up from just 40 per cent pre-pandemic. Gen Z are also said to be key consumers driving the sustainability movement and are far more likely to make purchasing decisions based on their values and principles. Where previously the focus on sustainability seemed more prevalent in the younger generations, there is evidence to say this movement today is transcending the generations. Another study in Australia late last year reported that nine in 10 Australians are more likely to purchase ethical and sustainable products, and that 85 per cent of consumers want retailers and brands to be more transparent about the sustainability of their products.

There is certainly a great market opportunity for retailers to transition their business towards a more environmentally sustainable model and connect with consumers in an authentic way that drives further loyalty.

It’s definitely an exciting time to be part of the petrol and convenience industry and to play a key role in adapting and evolving what will be in our customers’ shopping bags and vehicles in the future!

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