For retail organizations, sustainability is a financial hurdle to be overcome. Rather than cutting costs, retailers face an uphill struggle to increase already razor-thin profit margins in a rapidly changing industry. As a result, sustainability has become a major question.
The stakes are high to create the right atmosphere in-store, push inventory and streamline supply chains, but retailers might not be addressing the right things by prioritizing sales and ignoring sustainability. When implemented effectively, sustainability initiatives generate strong returns on investments.
Certain pioneers of sustainability have set an example of this kind of success. Target, for example, is the largest adopter of on-site corporate solar power and added 43 MW to its facilities in 2017.
New long-term strategies for efficiently managing resources and reducing costs, while minimizing operational impacts, make sustainability more accessible today. The 3 tips below serve to encourage retailers to rethink their business strategies and put sustainability to work as their base:
1. Don’t Assume One And Done
While resources in the retail industry are limited, sustainability projects are not effective if they’re only executed once and then forgotten. Sustainable operations require continuous maintenance to understand how equipment and resource requirements change over time and impact other business processes.
Once a performance benchmark has been established, only then are organizations in a position to determine whether efficiency improvements require simple or complex management styles. Wal-Mart, for example, as of 2016, powered 25 percent of its operations with renewable energy, with plans to double that by 2020. This strategy, combined with their goal to cut down energy consumption estimated to save Walmart USD$1 billion per year.
2. Find Value In Unseen Data
Big data is the key in today’s business world. Retailers have significantly benefited from consumer insights and innovative marketing tools. They have opportunities to quantify building and equipment performance more precisely, whether that’d be a brick-and-mortar setup or a warehouse. With advanced, yet affordable control systems for lighting, HVAC, refrigeration and other operational infrastructure helps retailers generate more reliable and accurate insights from their data.
Additionally, data can also be derived from utility bills to understand and optimize resource use regarding energy, water and waste. Waste especially, is important to categorize and track in this day-and-age, as the businesses look toward a greener environment.
When data is streamlined into an accessible format, businesses gain better insights that will inform critical business decisions and aid in establishing realistic sustainability goals for the organization.
3. Understand Your Consumption [restrict]
Retailers should be on the lookout for opportunities to reduce consumption costs by reviewing electrical demand trends. Some retailers with numerous rooftop AC units may be accustomed to switching them on every morning at the same time. As the motors require the most power at start-up, the dramatic power surge can result in additional costs from energy providers.
Digital interval meter data helps to identify demand response opportunities and operational performance improvements by providing visibility into power spikes. Setting each system to power on at staged intervals could easily reduce the peak load as well as those additional costs.
Lighting also provides opportunities for electrical demand management. Automatic or manual dimming controls can allow facility operators to reduce lighting loads during periods of the day when demand is high.
Retailers are under immense pressure to reduce overhead costs. Sustainability and energy efficiency programs may seem daunting to implement, but they are the quickest to pay back. Almost immediately after implementation, these efforts have the potential to drive down operating costs by 2 to 3 percent across a facility’s portfolio.
Setting sustainability goals through accurate benchmarking can enable retailers to achieve greater energy efficiency and resource optimization.
These initiatives should extend beyond one corporate office if you’re hoping to make an impact on the environment. When like-minded organizations partner across the supply chain and with environmental groups, real progress is imminent.