Sustainability is a key initiative for businesses of all types — green policies are good for the environment, they’re good for the bottom line, and they help companies better connect with the communities in which they operate.
Leading sustainability efforts across the nation are retail grocers, which have made significant strides toward goals in energy, waste and emissions reduction.
Among the leaders in our industry: Delhaize Group, the Brussels-based parent company of Food Lion and Hannaford Supermarkets, which released its 2014 sustainability progress report this past May. Key Food Lion achievements include the piloting of a zero-waste program to accelerate waste reduction, launched in 50 stores last year, with plans to reach almost 200 by the end of 2015. Through this initiative, waste is diverted from landfills and more materials are recycled, local food donations are increased, and food that isn’t donated is provided for composting or other recycling methods.
Other initiatives include improved sustainability of private-brand products; “solid progress” toward using 100 percent traceable, deforestation-free palm oil in private-brand foods; and the unveiling of a sustainable seafood policy encompassing more than 1,000 fresh, frozen, canned and packaged products.
“Food Lion has a strong commitment to sustainability in all that we do,” says Meg Ham, president of the Salisbury, N.C.-based banner, which has more than 1,100 stores in 10 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. “As one of the nation’s largest grocers, Food Lion has certified more stores through Energy Star in its history than any other supermarket retailer. In addition, we have recycled nearly 120,000 tons of plastic, paper and cardboard from our stores, in partnership with our customers, and we took a great step in giving back to our communities through our Food Lion Feeds program, announced last year. While this is great progress toward [Delhaize’s goal of] becoming ‘SuperGood,’ we know there is much more we can do, and we are eager to continue delivering on our Sustainability 2020 goals to help ensure our communities are sustainable for many years to come.”
Food Lion has been recognized by Energy Star, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through superior energy efficiency.
A longtime Energy Star partner, Food Lion won a Partner of the Year Award for Sustained Excellence this year “for its longtime dedication to identifying, developing and investing in new technologies and operational best practices to save energy and money,” according to Stephanie Klein, Energy Star’s national program manager for commercial properties. “Since becoming an Energy Star partner in 2000, Food Lion has reduced its company-wide energy use by 2.925 trillion British thermal units and its total carbon emissions by 1.9 billion pounds.”
The grocer has achieved Energy Star certification for 1,164 stores, more than 85 percent of its portfolio.
Delhaize’s Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford banner, which operates 186 stores in Maine, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, was the first grocery chain to receive Grocery Stewardship Certifications from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, in Massachusetts, at all of its stores, based on its zero-waste attainments, as well as its energy and water efficiency. Hannaford also worked with the Charlottesville, Va.-based Sustainable Packaging Coalition to improve the recyclability of its private-brand packaging, and like Food Lion, is improving the traceability of the palm oil used in its products. To reach this goal, Hannaford is purchasing “Green Palm” certificates to move toward the company’s 2020 goal of using only traceable and deforestation-free palm oil.
A leader in retailing, The Kroger Co. is also a leader in sustainability. The Cincinnati-based grocery giant was a first-time Energy Star Partner of the Year winner this year, recognized for its well-established commitment to investing in energy reduction initiatives.
“Since 2000, Kroger has reduced its energy use by 35 percent, or 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours,” Klein says. Additionally, more than two dozen Kroger manufacturing facilities have achieved zero-waste status.
Key accomplishments of Kroger’s award-winning energy management program include the extensive use of LED lighting in refrigerated cases; implementation of best practices for refrigeration, lighting and HVAC; and enhanced associate and customer awareness. Through the Energy Star certification process, Kroger certified 166 stores in 2014 alone, earning “Elite” status as part of Energy Star’s 2014 Certification Nation competition.
EPA also named Kroger a leader it its Food Recovery Challenge program, which donates food that’s cosmetically unsellable to those in need, rather than disposing of it. As part of the company’s food recovery strategy, Kroger’s Perishable Donations Partnership contributed the equivalent of 43 million meals of healthy perishable food to local Feeding America food banks last year.
Additionally, Kroger’s retail operations team has implemented an organic recycling program in 1,000 stores across the country. This program employs composting and animal feed to limit the amount of food going into landfills.
Further, Kroger was the first major retailer in the United States to develop a clean-energy production system that converts food that can’t be sold or donated into clean energy. The facility provides a quarter of the power needed to run the company’s Ralphs/Food 4 Less distribution center in Compton, Calif.
“We are committed to reducing food waste, because it is good for our business, our communities and the environment,” says Suzanne Lindsay-Walker, Kroger’s director of sustainability. “We also want to make it easy for our customers to take simple steps at home to live greener and reduce household food waste.”
Earlier this year, Kroger launched a microsite — Kroger.com/earthday — to inspire customers to live green, save money and reduce waste at home. The grocer partnered with Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Products to provide simple tips and money-saving tricks to help fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer, and to use natural cleaning methods to perform household chores.
Water and Power
Other retailers have stepped up their efforts to conserve resources like energy and water.
For instance, Ahold USA has teamed up with Norwell, Mass.-based Bluestone Energy Services LLC to lower the grocer’s energy consumption across hundreds of Stop & Shop, Giant Landover and Giant/Martin’s supermarkets, resulting in a smaller overall carbon footprint and a considerable reduction in energy costs passed onto customers.
Last year, Bluestone’s supermarket division completed comprehensive energy efficiency projects at Ahold USA stores, such as upgrading all of the interior lighting to high-efficiency LED lighting with advanced wireless controls, thereby reducing lighting consumption by more than 70 percent. “Part of our Better Neighbor Promise is to care for the environment in the communities we serve,” says Jihad Rizkallah, VP of responsible retailing at the Quincy, Mass.-based grocer. “We strive to minimize our impact on the environment by implementing energy conservation initiatives and deploying innovative, sustainable building technologies that reduce our energy consumption and make our operations more efficient.”
This year, Ahold USA and Bluestone plan to expand their initiatives to stores in all of the grocer’s regions, increasing the energy savings through new undertakings while improving the efficiency of ongoing projects.
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Inc. has committed to reduce its water consumption by 5 percent by July 2017, which the grocery chain expects will result in conservation of millions of gallons of water. Citing projections from the United Nations that demand for water will rise by an estimated 40 percent by 2050, Giant Eagle executed a five-month conservation program in eight pilot locations, which collectively exceeded a 5 percent water savings. As a result, all corporately operated Giant Eagle supermarkets have been retrofitted with water conservation equipment.
Meanwhile, solar roofing technology deployed at select store locations saves an estimated 750,000 kilowatt-hours per year. In addition to 12 LEED-certified retail locations and the conversion of nearly half of its distribution fleet to CNG-powered vehicles, the retailer recycles more than 700 tons of plastic bags annually. Additionally, its customers have helped save more than 50 miles of register paper by selecting eReceipts at checkout. Since the option launched in January, eReceipts have offset more than 400,000 paper receipts.
New initiatives unveiled this past spring by San Bernardino, Calif.-based Stater Bros. Markets include installing glass doors and LED lighting on refrigerated cases, reducing energy by 60 percent per refrigerated case; installing sales floor LED lighting in newly constructed and remodeled stores; and implementing high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans throughout its grocery distribution center.
“EPA encourages supermarkets to become Energy Star partners and pursue certification for their stores as an easy way to tell stakeholders, from management to facilities staff, associates and customers, that the company is a good steward of resources and an environmental leader.”
—Stephanie Klein, Energy Star