Consumers are becoming more aware about the need for sustainability in the choices they make, including in their food experiences. Terms such as food miles, packaging waste, organically grown and ethical produce are not merely buzzwords, as consumers, mostly young, are showing their willingness to pay for food that is sustainable in every respect.

With studies revealing how 72% of young consumers are willing to pay more for responsible low impact offering, it’s clear that sustainability is an opportunity for the food retailing industry to improve margins and reduce impact.

The operating carbon and cost footprint of food retail is three to six times higher than it is for non-food retail, with food theme parks and burger bars featuring in the top end of the scale; this is likely to account for their presence at the front of the sustainability bandwagon.

Energy operating costs alone vary from $100 to over $300 per square metre, which rapidly eat away at the profit margins of owners while increasing impact on the planet. True ‘sustainability’ is reducing environmental impact while improving profit – all for the greater good of the community.

In the current scenario, many food retailers are burdened with unnecessarily high operating costs from excessive energy consumption, leading to a lot of strain on their profit margins. In most cases, the operating energy cost and carbon footprint of food retail can be reduced by 35% or more if the right decisions are taken at the outset.

Top 5 decisions to ensure best-in-class carbon and cost footprint:

  • 10% can be avoided simply by selecting the right tenancy location and shopfront/ layout design
  • 5-10% through the selection and management of refrigeration
  • 5% through the selection of equipment
  • 4% through afterhours automation and management
  • 3-5% through lighting design

However, if allocating funds to carry out these changes is a problem, consider these facts: Actions that make you sustainable will cost money upfront but the payback time is quick – about four to five months – with the energy savings leaving you with an operating cost 30% lower than your competitors. Over a year, this could pay for an extra staff member or more investment in social media and marketing promotions.

In the commercial office world, the NABERS rating scheme gives tenants a clear indication of the ‘sustainability credentials’ of their fitouts.

The Footprint Company (TFC) is passionate about low footprint retail, having completed over 1,000 retail tenancy sustainability design assessments. Based on this experience, TFC has created their own Retail NABERS style benchmarks to help guide their designer/ operator clients to achieve really sustainable results.

Progressive landlords such as Lend Lease, The GPT Group and Investa have been quietly supporting their retailers in their quest to become sustainable. Aware that retail tenants account for over 30% of all non-residential carbon emissions, these entities believe it is an essential component of their corporate responsibility to engage retailers to operate better.