Richard Francis, founder of the Monomoy Company and director of sustainability at Gardiner & Theobald, helmed the discussion over economic performance considered through an environmental lens.
“How many people know what their carbon footprint was last year within 10 per cent?” Richard Francis asked the audience, meeting no response. “How many people know how much they weigh within five to 10 pounds?” Nearly every hand in the room shot up. “I’ve yet to try that and have it not work out this way,” he said. This opening set the tone for the enlightening session looking at health and wellbeing in the industry.
Francis called health and wellbeing the world’s biggest social trend then related this to environment, saying that retail spaces should aim to provide fresh, bright, welcoming spaces for shoppers and staff to improve their overall sense of wellbeing. This opened the door to the discussion panel, featuring Mike Taylor, centre manager of Fareham Shopping Centre, Kirsty Necker, collaboration manager of Guide Dogs, and Zoe Young, project manager the of Plan A team at Marks & Spencer.
Young highlighted the importance of creating a stimulating, productive environment for retail staff. “For a typical office building, 90 per cent of the cost of the building comes from the people, the 9 per cent is the rent and the 1 per cent is the energy. We’ve got teams of people spending loads of time, money and effort, trying to reduce our energy consumption, but if we can increase the productivity of the people then we can have a massive benefit to our business, and we want to see how that can relate to the retail space.”
Mike Taylor, represented the voice of centre managers, championed the importance of wellbeing of not just the average consumer, but of a more inclusive approach to mental health. “It’s about communicating with our staff, educating them and giving them a sense of achievement from the customer service that they give,” he said.
“They received a huge amount of positive feedback from customers week on week, with staff receiving letters and social media messages about how well they have done. That, for internal staff, really does help in the wellbeing of their service,” Taylor said. “And it’s not just the centre staff, it’s also the tenants. We did plenty of training for the staff, deliver the sessions to our staff and to our tenants, they are able to get on board with it and we are creating a much wider environment for their capabilities.”
The most affecting words of the session came from Kirsty Necker, tugging at the audiences’ conscience with the figures of wealth held by the disabled community. She said: “There is £249bn every year on offer from the disability community, and you are excluding yourself from that if you aren’t including people with disability. And in excluding them, it creates a culture where we have social isolation where people can’t fully participate in our communities, which leads to a decline of health and wellbeing for everybody who is in it. I think there’s a massive role for retailers to play in the future in creating a community that we want to grow old in ourselves.
“We’re looking at the way we can influence our environment and at how we can help [landlords] create an inclusive environment for everybody, regardless of age or disability. Our perspective is looking at decreasing isolation and increasing participation.”