The grocery industry operates on average the most energy intensive commercial buildings; grocery stores operate on a razor-thin margin for profitability; and grocery stores have the ability to make huge impacts on the planet by reducing waste, energy and water use and ultimately green-house gas emissions. Those are just a few of the reasons that grocery stores need to participate in a sustainability program.
What does a sustainability program need to deliver?
For a sustainability program to be practical, it needs to increase financial sustainability, save resources and have a positive impact on industry stakeholders, employees and local communities. It also has to be easy to manage and run at the store-level, especially in an industry as busy as the grocery industry.
To truly drive sustainability within the grocery industry, we believe that retailers will need to start working together to enact operational store-level best management practices that will benefit future generations, both profitably and responsibly. Grocery chains need a common language they can use to discuss and plan for their future, which an industry-wide sustainability program can deliver. In the past, grocery chains have used a general concept of “sustainability” as their basis. This is too vague and is not enough. They need common tools and platforms to help them manage for both corporate and store-level sustainability – a tool that can help drive performance, engagement, and ensure accountability and consistency.
The benefits of sustainability
Through our work with the grocery sector, Manomet has found that the average grocery store is currently saving approximately $70,000 per year through their existing sustainability efforts, but has the opportunity to save at least $20,000 a year more.
Beyond saving money, sustainability creates substantial opportunities for food retailers, including customer and employee engagement and brand enhancement. Most customers prefer to purchase products or shop at retailers where sustainability is a key part of the corporate strategy and brand. Additionally, improving operations and efficiency through sustainable operating practices can reduce costs and dramatically shrink environmental footprint. When approached purposefully, these efforts engage employees and help attract and retain talent, thus increasing productivity and reducing recruitment costs. Food retailers who have integrated sustainability into corporate strategy have also reduced material business risk and improved their company reputation.
Manomet’s Grocery Stewardship Certification
More than 800 grocery stores nationwide are enrolled in Manomet’s Grocery Stewardship Certification (GSC); Hannaford was the first retailer to enroll their stores in this program. Hannaford saved more than $115,000 per store annually in 2016 by improving store facilities and practices, up from $83,000 in 2014. In 2016, the GSC sustainability program quantified the approximate value of operational sustainability for the 179 participating Hannaford stores at more than $20 million annually.
George Parmenter, Sustainability Manager, Hannaford says that “Manomet’s GSC program gives Hannaford a platform to engage our associates in our sustainability work, practicing stewardship while reducing waste and cutting costs.”
Weis Markets was the second chain to enroll all of their stores in the Grocery Stewardship Certification. “Weis has made sustainability one of our key company missions since 2008,” said R. Kevin Small, Vice President of Store Development, Weis Markets. “Achieving the Grocery Stewardship Certification is a recognition of all of the efforts that we are investing in this journey. In addition to providing us with valuable data about our overall performance, the Grocery Stewardship Certification program gave us a new way to engage with our employees about sustainability and to demonstrate to our customers that we are continually adopting sustainable practices to minimize our impact on the environment today and for tomorrow.”
As a result of their sustainable operating practices, the GSC estimates that Weis Markets annually saves:
- More than 64 million pounds of waste from going to landfills;
- More than 11,141,258 million gallons of water from being used; and
- More than 295,894 tons of greenhouse gases from being released.
Progressive Grocer’s ‘Retailer of the Year’ Giant Eagle was the third grocery chain to enroll all of their stores in the GSC. In an effort to improve Team Member engagement in the management of store-level sustainable practices, Giant Eagle began working toward chain-wide Grocery Stewardship Certification in 2015. As a result of its focus on sustainability, Manomet estimates that Giant Eagle annually saves:
- Nearly 6,000 tons of waste from going to landfills;
- More than 45 million gallons of water from being used; and
- Approximately 260,000 tons of greenhouse gas from being released.
Focusing on sustainability and joining a sustainability program has many benefits; if you’d like to learn more, contact Peter Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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