Retailers’ Green Efforts Focused on Energy Management

Despite the uncertain economic environment, retailers are continuing to invest in green measures, according to a new report by RSR Research. What’s more, the number of retailers who believe that environmentally responsible initiatives are born out of good business sense is on the rise, up to 61% in 2010 from 49% the previous year.

The study, “Lean and Green: Sustainable Practices Are Changing Retail,” presented in partnership with the National Retail Federation, confirms that in-store energy management/conservation is the most important component of retailers’ green agendas. More than half (56%) of retailers have leveraged energy management in their stores.

“We saw in last year's report an increased interest in store-based green initiatives, and that continued very strongly this year," said Steve Rowen, managing partner at RSR Research and co-author of the report. "While our survey shows that many retailers have made inroads in this area, they also report that they have a lot more work to do in stores to both increase efficiency and reduce waste."

Retailers have not been overly keen when it comes to replacing in-store IT equipment or changing their IT architecture -- even if green benefits contribute to lowering the total cost of ownership, according to the study. But that may be changing, the study suggests. Those retailers who are the furthest along in store-based green initiatives are now eying IT as one of the next areas from which they can draw real value.

As to the greatest green opportunities, the most successful retailers ranked the following initiatives as having the most promise:

  • Solar panels, tinted windows and other alternative methods to reduce energy needs (95%);
  • Remote energy/electricity controls (84%);
  • Remote HVAC/temperature controls (68%);
  • Reduced carbon footprint (32%);
  • Replacement of old IT devices with newer, energy-efficient ones (26%); and
  • Reduced IT footprint (11%).

The report also uncovers where retailers will be spending their money with regards to green in 2011. The Top 5 budgeted project areas were:

  1. Energy management throughout the supply chain;
  2. Green construction practices in new stores and retrofits;
  3. Replacement of inefficient machinery with energy-efficient models;
  4. IT hardware consolidation; and
  5. End of life disposal or recycling programs, and green product packaging (tie).

Interestingly, retailers’ reasoning in pursuing environmental sustainability has shifted from winning customer loyalty and market differentiation to gaining operational efficiency out of every system within their control, according to RSR Research.