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‘big box’ retailers get tips on reducing impact

October 2005

Socially responsible investors in the US have produced guidelines advising large retailers on reducing the undesirable social and environmental effects of ‘big box’ megastores.

The guidelines, issued by Christian Brothers Investment Services and Domini Social Investments, say retailers should disclose their siting policies, carry out risk assessments, consult with affected communities in advance, and respect the spirit of planning laws.

Adam Kanzer, Domini’s director of shareholder advocacy, said: ‘Companies have damaged their relations with communities by contributing to urban sprawl. But these problems can be avoided, which is why we’ve drawn up these guidelines.’

Apart from reputation damage, retailers may increasingly need to consider the issue to avoid legislation. The city of New York is looking at a law to force retailers to undergo a licensing review prior to building new stores.

The guidelines feature best practice examples, such as Home Depot’s plans to open a store in Placerville, California, which the company has agreed to site in a central regeneration area rather than on the edge of town. It will also landscape it with native plants and design the facade to blend in with local buildings.

Pressure on retailers is also increasing in the UK, where the New Economics Foundation think-tank has urged regulation to restrict the growth of big box stores, which it partly blames for the increasing homogenization of British town centres.

In its Clone Town Britain study, it calls on the government to submit retailers to an ‘economic and community impact review’ if they wish to build big stores.



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