Eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical are words that have become part of the permanent lexicon of manufacturers and retailers in recent years. From the smallest 500-square-foot shop to the mass chain with 1,000-plus stores, companies are looking for ways to lower their carbon footprints, conserve energy, identify ethical sourcing partners and educate consumers about the benefits of saving the planet, and consumers themselves are becoming more interested in the topic as well. According to a survey by WSL Strategic Retail, 55 percent of consumers buy organic products, up from 49 percent a year ago.

Many companies are making investments that will lead to cost-saving efficiencies. A healthy regard for the environment has become part of many firms’ identities, from Patagonia to yes, Wal-Mart. For others, such as the Gap, eco-sensitive products and ethical sourcing is part of the culture, something that employees have come to expect and consumers increasingly demand.

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