Retailers can undertake possible environmentally focused change initiatives by examining the actual way that they sell through their in-shop activities.
Eco-Innovation of New Buildings
Eco-innovation of new buildings refers to retailers designing new buildings to ensure the operation and maintenance of retail stores with the lowest possible environmental impacts.
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Green building includes applying innovative and green technologies in the design and construction of new buildings or the renovation or upgrade of existing buildings, as well as thinking about the environmental impact throughout the life cycle of a building (design, construction, use, demolition). Recently larger retailers are actively reducing the environmental impact of their new buildings. In 2010 CO2-neutral stores opened in Germany and UK.
Read also case on Eco-Innovation of New Buildings: Coop, Sweden
Green Products and Services for Internal Use
Green Procurement refers to retailers setting environmental standards for the purchasing of products and services used for the operation and maintenance of stores.
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Environmentally preferable products satisfy the same or improved function, but have a lower negative impact on human health and the environment. Retailers can potentially make environmental improvements and improve their environmental profile by buying green products and services for internal use.
Read also case on Green Products & Services for Internal Use: S Group, Finland
Some large retailers have developed policies to encourage green procurement of products for their own use, for example IT equipment and cleaning products. Others are reducing the environmental impact of services, for example in business air travel, by carbon off-setting through contributing to climate change projects.
Efficient Energy Management
Energy efficiency refers to activities initiated with the aim of reducing energy consumption in retail stores.
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Typical activities include the installation of LED lighting, motion sensors and measurement systems to track energy use, and hinged doors on freezer units to prevent cool air from escaping. More advanced measures include the reuse of heat generated by refrigeration units to heat stores.
Energy efficiency measures have a significant potential to reduce energy consumption in stores and are a common area of activity amongst European and Nordic retailers due to the potential for associated cost savings, as is the case with green buildings.
Efficient Distribution and Logistics
Efficient distribution and logistics refers to the management and optimisation of transportation and logistics in a product chain with the aim of optimising time, volumes and reducing the costs of product delivery, as well reducing the environmental impacts of transport from suppliers to warehouses and stores.
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This can be done by changing the modes of transport to more environmentally sound methods by choosing geographically closer sourcing countries and by optimising the routes of delivery and road transportation.
The optimisation of road transportation is a strategy that might include, for example, a decrease of empty returns, training in sustainable driving styles and environmental requirements for vehicle procurement. Some retailers are using less polluting transport modes, i.e. substituting air and road transport for rail or sea transport.
Read also case on Efficient Distribution and Logistics: Coop, Sweden
Efficient distribution/logistic systems have the potential to decrease GHG emissions, resource use and air pollution. This is a common area of activity amongst European retailers due to the potential for associated cost savings.
However, there is room for significant improvement in logistics and distribution systems, not least by an increased use of low-energy transport modes such as railroad, ocean and river transportation and green vehicles (e.g. hybrid or electric) throughout the supply chain, as well as by promoting the use of alternative fuels. Further development of systems using reusable transport packaging has potential for the future.
Waste Prevention and Management
Waste prevention and management includes the management and reduction of waste generated during the operation and maintenance of retail stores through appropriate reduction, sorting, collection, reuse, refilling, recycling, disposal and monitoring of waste materials.
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Waste management is a common area of activity in the Nordic food retail sector, due primarily to EU legislation and other existing regulations in this area. The majority of large retailers have implemented the sorting of waste at both stores and warehouses and have started various initiatives for recycling, thus achieving significant reductions in amounts of waste to landfill. This activity makes good business sense as landfill charges increase.
Read also case on Waste Prevention and Management: Rekstrarfélag 10-11 ehf., Iceland
Activities on waste prevention mainly include systems for refillable bottles for soft drinks and beers, reusable shopping bags. Many retailers and public authorities have launched various activities to reduce the use of, and hence waste impacts from, plastic bags, including the introduction of a duty on plastic bags (e.g. Germany, Denmark and Ireland). A number of refill systems are found in the Nordic countries. However, there is potential for more initiatives. Food waste is a new main area for waste prevention in stores.
Environmental Training of Staff
The environmental training of staff aims to increase personnel awareness and skills about the environmental impacts their operations lead to, about the management systems set up by retailers to reduce these impacts and about policies set up by retailers with regard to their environmental goals.
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Together with the continuous training of personnel, this training can often be part of the orientation for new employees when they begin work and can include such elements as water and waste management, energy use, green product training, relevant legislation, or awareness raising on climate change and associated issues of environmental management. Often incentives or responsibility to attain targets can also help staff to be included in and even spur on the overarching vision.
Read also case on Environmental Training of Staff: Icelandic Centre for Retail Studies, Bifröst University, Iceland
For the retail sector there is a challenge related to the training of the relatively large number of part-time or part-term employees. Some European retailers have educated all staff in conjunction with their accreditation to different environmental systems, while others have developed guidebooks for their staff on specific issues, for example, energy efficiency.
Eco-Labelling of Retail Stores
An eco-labelling system is established in the Nordic countries, where grocery shops can apply for the Nordic Swan; an environmental label awarded to the best performing shops.
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Eco-labelling criteria embraces the entire life cycle/supply chain of food and non-food products and can serve as guidance for retailers to improve their environmental profile. To receive the Nordic eco-label, stores must have a minimum selection of organic and environmentally sound products and must further continuously reduce their impacts on the environment by, for example, improving the energy efficiency of their operations, reducing and sorting waste and other measures.
Read also case on Eco-Labelling of Retail Stores: ICA, Sweden
Eco-labelling of retail stores is a good instrument for retailers to improve their environmental performance, get acknowledgement of their efforts and verification from a third party and to communicate their achievements to customers. By the end of 2009 there were more than 400 Swan eco-label stores in the Nordic countries, mainly in Sweden and Norway. Beside the Nordic Swan, Sweden has the Good Environmental Choice "Bra miljöval" eco-label for grocery stores.
Environmental Management Systems
Environmental management systems (EMS) refer to the management of an organisation's, e.g. a retailer's environmental programs in a comprehensive, systematic, planned and documented manner.
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EMS includes the organisational structure, planning and resources for developing, implementing and maintaining a policy for environmental protection. Some of the benefits of implementing an effective EMS may include raw material savings, reduced energy use as well as emissions and waste handling costs. They also provide a management platform for environmental issues in retail shops, warehouses and storage spaces and can give evidence of the responsibility to improve a firm's image with regulators, customers and the public.
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Disadvantages to EMS are that many retailers often perceive certified environmental management systems as being restrictive and costly. Another argument expressed by some retailers is that some environmental management accreditations are not widely known among customers, which reduces the incentive for retailers to apply for them. Some Nordic retailers have developed their own environmental management systems.