Can wellbeing drive engagement in Retail?

Last night I attended the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) launch of its new “Wellbeing Lab: Retail; A Compendium of Experience” at the John Lewis department store in the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford.

The report launch is the result of a 9 month programme where 7 teams investigated different applications of Wellbeing in the retail environment.

The Wellbeing Lab for Retail is the second of the Wellbeing Labs that have been put on by the UKGBC, the first being focused on offices. Carbon Credentials has participated in both, finding the Lab format useful in supporting our practical application of Wellbeing concepts.

In the most recent Lab, we partnered with the railway company, Northern Rail , as the subject of our project and case study, and architect firm Haskoll. While not specifically a retail company, Northern’s stations contain shops and ticket halls, ample examples of retail for us to examine wellbeing in greater detail.

The launch event featured insight from the report, focused on 5 key takeaways.

UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) image

There is something for everyone on that list, but for me, the key idea remains: wellbeing is about people. Most of the key findings in both Wellbeing Labs have been about the specific impacts and interactions between people and buildings and how to improve them. This is not surprising, it seems obvious. However, the implications are very important, as are the reasons to do Wellbeing programmes.

The business case for Wellbeing
In the Wellbeing Lab for Offices, we spent a lot of time focused on the impact of Wellbeing programmes on productivity and how to measure this. This is important, but as I mention in my thought piece in this report [link], it might not be vital. Being about people, Wellbeing has more implicit support than traditional sustainability, and it is easier to explain what the value is. Anyone who has paid for a fitness tracker or a gym membership has directly engaged with the idea of fitness and health as a performance improvement which has value. While the links to corporate value may need to be established, it is not as abstract as we see in other aspects of sustainability.

In retail, the connection is direct and relatively strong. This is partly because productivity metrics in retail are typically much clearer and more established: revenue and/or customer retention are actively reviewed by all successful retail operations, and connecting people to success is straightforward at an anecdotal level, and apparently at a metrics level too. Where in offices, productivity can be challenging to measure because of the range of activities and functions within the office environment, in retail the connection between happy and positive staff and sales is difficult to argue against.

Wellbeing to engage
As with any social systems, the real value is already on site and in practice, but needs to be nurtured and developed. At Carbon Credentials, we see our Wellbeing programmes as a great opportunity to engage with staff about something that they can easily care about. Our wellbeing programmes are designed to use this engagement and our wellbeing data, to talk about the entire sustainability piece. In doing so, we can have a wide ranging discussion which includes aspects of energy efficiency and sustainability, but the Wellbeing aspects keep it people focused and relevant to the engagement.

The idea of Wellbeing moving from a business function to the actual customers is an important one, and sustainability programmes have a unique opportunity to drive their relevance and meaning to engaged audiences using Wellbeing concepts. The Better Places for People framework discussed in the Wellbeing Lab: Retail report includes many crossover concepts, and data which can be used to drive both energy and sustainability concepts as well as Wellbeing. For us and our clients, this makes Wellbeing an exciting opportunity to improve the performance of the building and the people inside.

How are you using wellbeing and data to improve engagement and drive performance? Both in buildings and across organisations?

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this; email me at

In my next post, I’ll look deeper into our participation in the Wellbeing Lab for Retail, and our specific findings on mental health and biodiversity.

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