It was interesting to see how different retail owners and chains approach energy and sustainability. The Green Pavilion Educational Sessions at ICSC revealed how several retail players are pursuing environmental responsibility while also reducing costs.
One large real estate owner/LL/developer has a sophisticated sustainability program to retrofit 50 million square feet of space for greater energy efficiency. The goal is to attract retailers through lower operating costs, without overspending on capital improvements, and there are a lot of strategies that can help achieve that balance.
Another retailer is committed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, which addresses every aspect of sustainability, from water conservation to indoor air quality, but also will help reduce energy by a projected 30 percent in new and existing locations that conform to redesign standards.
Yet another retailer is more specifically focused on reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. As a Partner in the EPA’s popular Energy Star program for buildings, they measure energy performance at their stores and seek ways to improve; for example, they have a program that encourages energy-efficient behavior by employees. In addition to conserving energy, they participate in the Chicago Climate Exchange system of buying and selling credits for renewable energy, which is a preferred method for making solar and wind energy cost-effective, and thus reduce greenhouse gases.
There may be as many different ways to be green as there are retail players. In our experience, there’s no one set of strategies that are best for everyone, but it’s important to have a goal, a business case to support it and a plan to reach it.