Retailers in Australia may be interested in a new trend in the American retail industry, whose motto seems to be “care more, take less and give back”.

According to Jon Bird, chairman of specialist retail marketing agency IdeaWorks and publisher of Inside Retail, the incredibly successful retail chain Panera (which consists of almost 1,600 cafes in the US and Canada) is a good example of this.

Their statement of purpose, “We exist to feed each and every person who walks through our doors with dignity regardless of their means”, serves as inspiration to employees and has garnered them support from the community.

While such an idea almost seems counter to what retail is all about -maintaining a sufficient level of profitability – this newly emerging sentiment may have something to it.

The Panera Cares initiative, for example, puts the idea of retailing with purpose into motion by allowing customers to pay what they can afford. If you don’t even have a penny in your pocket, you can earn your meal by wiping tables and tidying up.

A white paper published in the Journal of Brand Strategy titled “Retailing with Purpose” by Gwen Morrison, co-CEO of The Store, and Anneliza Humlen, president and founder of New York-based SocialVoice, first called attention to projects like Panera Cares.

Patagonia is another brand whose efforts to promote sustainability and durability have not gone unnoticed. The company recently launched a line called Worn Wear, which provides their customers with a chance to purchase “better than new” clothing that they have refurbished.

With the modern attitude of buy it cheap,  break it, buy it again, this concept challenges current practice and advocates durability. It also promotes the quality of Patagonia clothing, which can take you through all your adventures, get restored, and take someone else through theirs.

According to Mr Bird, there are a great number of Australian retailers who promote and produce goods using moral and ethical standards and a give-back attitude, but it hasn’t quite reached the level of popularity it enjoys in America.

This is one retail trend that’s worth investing in, however, because not only does it give employees something they can get behind and the community a business they can be proud of, but it’s just “the right thing to do”.