Gro­cery chains need to de­liver on sus­tain­abil­ity goals by strength­en­ing their long-term green vi­sion

Food re­tail­ers are re­duc­ing their en­ergy us­age as 2020 nears.

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Front Page - By Laura Liebeck

Gro­cery chains across the coun­try are mak­ing sub­stan­tive progress to­ward their 2020 sus­tain­abil­ity goals. With four years to go, chains are check­ing off their ac­com­plish­ments one by one – from in­stalling LED lights in stores and park­ing lots to plac­ing mo­tion sen­sors in re­frig­er­ated cases – and ad­just­ing their to-do lists with ad­di­tional ob­jec­tives that will strengthen their long-term green goals, de­liver bot­tom-line results and im­press shop­pers.

“Things are track­ing well,” af­firms Ge­orge Par­menter, sus­tain­abil­ity man­ager at Sal­is­bury, N.c.-based Del­haize Amer­ica, par­ent com­pany of Food Lion and Han­naford, not­ing that the com­pany’s 2020 goals are still a work in progress. Par­menter adds that Del­haize Amer­ica’s goals weren’t meant to be eas­ily achieved and were thought­fully struc­tured. “If we had achieved any of them, the busi­ness would be ask­ing if the goal was strin­gent enough, and that would mean that we didn’t have the right goal,” he ex­plains.

Marissa Nel­son, SVP re­spon­si­ble re­tail­ing and healthy liv­ing at Quincy, Mass.-based Ahold USA, par­ent com­pany of Stop & Shop, Gi­ant Carlisle, Gi­ant Lan­dover, and Martin’s Food Mar­kets – and soon to merge with Del­haize Amer­ica – con­curs, telling Pro­gres­sive Gro­cer that she’s “very pleased with our sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gram. Our results were driven largely by in­no­va­tive, out-of-the-box think­ing that was ap­plied across all busi­ness areas to de­liver on our as­pi­ra­tions and goals. In­deed, we have trav­eled this road as one Ahold USA team, and for the next five years we will con­tinue to push the en­ve­lope to reach am­bi­tious tar­gets in key areas of food in­se­cu­rity, food waste, health­ier eat­ing and re­duc­ing our car­bon foot­print.”

With more than 1,100 stores be­tween them, both com­pa­nies boast finely turned sus­tain­abil­ity

pro­grams that are thought­fully ex­e­cuted and ap­pear to have com­ple­men­tary long-term goals.

Ac­cord­ing to Par­menter, Del­haize Amer­ica and Ahold USA are “com­pa­nies with sim­i­lar am­bi­tions and sus­tain­abil­ity ob­jec­tives, and to­gether we’ll be able to push our am­bi­tions fur­ther. There’s an in­ter­est­ing syn­ergy that can hap­pen, and as soon as we can be­gin shar­ing, there will be some ex­cit­ing en­ergy.”

New Tar­gets

The en­vi­ron­ment for sus­tain­able progress is fer­tile through­out the gro­cery in­dus­try. Of course, each chain’s var­i­ous goals are in dif­fer­ent stages of com­ple­tion. Sun­bury, Pa.-based Weis Mar­kets re­vealed in May that it had sur­passed its green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions re­duc­tion goal five years ahead of sched­ule. In­stead of cut­ting emis­sions by 20 per­cent by 2020, in 2015 the chain achieved a GHG emis­sions cut of 22.1 per­cent.

“Hit­ting this im­por­tant mile­stone five years ahead of sched­ule gives us the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to ex­plore new ini­tia­tives and tech­nolo­gies that will fur­ther re­duce our im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and stream­line ef­fi­cien­cies in our op­er­a­tions,” notes Weis Mar­kets Pres­i­dent and CEO Jonathan Weis.

He’s not alone. Gro­cers na­tion­wide are set­ting new tar­gets that will pro­vide each of them with a game plan to fur­ther re­duce their en­ergy foot­print and meet new chal­lenges. Con­tin­u­ing goals re­main to in­crease the use of re­new­able en­ergy sources, cur­tail wa­ter us­age, re­duce waste sent to land­fills and en­hance re­cy­cling, as well as to of­fer only sus­tain­ably sourced fish, cof­fee, tea, co­coa and palm oil. Goal ad­just­ments are be­ing made to ac­count for changes in in­for­ma­tion and tech­nol­ogy that are pro­vid­ing new and im­proved so­lu­tions that en­able re­tail­ers to up­date their time­lines.

Del­haize Amer­ica, for ex­am­ple, strength­ened its com­mit­ment to de­for­esta­tion ini­tia­tives when new in­for­ma­tion be­came widely known about forests dev­as­tated by the har­vest­ing of wood fiber, palm oil and other com­modi­ties. The com­pany is now work­ing to­ward in­creas­ing the re­cy­cled wood fiber con­tent in its pri­vate-brand pack­ag­ing to 90 per­cent or re­quir­ing Forestry Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by 2020.

For its part, Rochester, N.y.-based Weg­mans Food Mar­kets uses sec­ondary re­frig­er­ants for its medium-tem­per­a­ture cases and has be­gun us­ing nat­u­ral re­frig­er­ants on a case-by-case ba­sis for frozen areas as part of its ef­forts to re­duce the com­pany’s car­bon foot­print. Weg­mans is also work­ing to cap­ture more plas­tic to ex­pand its plas­tic bagre­cy­cling pro­gram. Cur­rently, the gro­cer is col­lect­ing and re­cy­cling 50 per­cent of each store’s plas­tic, with an ul­ti­mate goal to col­lect and re­cy­cle all plas­tic.

Weg­mans is on a “jour­ney to zero waste,” says Ja­son Wadsworth, sus­tain­abil­ity man­ager for the 89-store chain. “Our goal is to not waste any­thing, and we’re al­ways look­ing at ways to get there.” Weg­mans started a pi­lot pro­gram in one store in Jan­uary to see how far it could get by fo­cus­ing its ef­forts and doc­u­ment­ing its progress. The store is now di­vert­ing 72 per­cent of its waste, and should hit 80 per­cent by year-end. Other Weg­mans stores di­vert 62 per­cent of waste.

Waste Not

Waste man­age­ment has be­come a hot-but­ton is­sue for many re­tail­ers to achieve their zero-waste goals. Mul­ti­lay­ered pro­grams are emerg­ing that fea­ture en­hanced ef­forts to di­vert edi­ble food to lo­cal pantries that feed the hun­gry, scraps that go to farmers for an­i­mal feed, and the bal­ance to com­posters for, among other things, bio­fuel (bio­gas). The keys to suc­cess with th­ese pro­grams are clearly stated cor­po­rate goals and pro­ce­dures, as well as ed­u­cated store-level as­so­ci­ates who im­ple­ment the waste man­age­ment pro­gram on a daily ba­sis.

“We’re able to show the im­pact of a re­cy­cling pro­gram to our [stores], and show them and pro­vide them the pos­i­tive im­pact com­post­ing has on the en­vi­ron­ment and their P&LS,” ex­plains Ahold USA’S Nel­son. The gro­cer has “green cap­tains” who help stores en­sure “waste suc­cess,” as they’re the ones on the front lines of the pro­gram.

We’re able to show the im­pact of a re­cy­cling pro­gram to our [stores] … and pro­vide them the pos­i­tive im­pact com­post­ing has on the en­vi­ron­ment and their P&LS.” — Marissa Nel­son Ahold USA

In April, Ahold USA opened a green en­ergy fa­cil­ity in Freetown, Mass., that’s ex­pected to process about 95 tons of ined­i­ble food per day and an es­ti­mated 34,000 tons per year. The en­ergy pro­duced by the 12,000-square-foot cen­ter will pro­vide up to 40 per­cent of the en­ergy needs of the com­pany’s 1.1 mil­lion-square-foot dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter in Freetown – enough power to op­er­ate the fa­cil­ity for four months. Once fully op­er­a­tional, the fa­cil­ity will cre­ate ap­prox­i­mately 1.25 megawatts of clean elec­tric­ity.

Key to the green en­ergy fa­cil­ity is the anaer­o­bic di­gester (AD), a new ad­di­tion to Ahold USA’S sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts. ADS weren’t on many peo­ple’s radar six years ago, in­clud­ing Ahold USA’S, but the com­pany is al­ready ex­plor­ing a 2.0 ver­sion that’s more ex­pe­di­ent and less cap­i­tal in­ten­sive, ac­cord­ing to Nel­son.

Del­haize Amer­ica also has an AD pro­gram. Hav­ing joined forces with a dairy farm in Maine that works with the gro­cer’s 40 area stores, the com­pany is now look­ing to scale up the ini­tia­tive. Over­all, Del­haize Amer­ica stores na­tion­wide di­verted 20.2 mil­lion pounds of food from land­fills last year, up 10 per­cent from 2014. A higher recla­ma­tion rate is ex­pected for 2016, with 90 per­cent to 92 per­cent of stores en­gaged in com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ships that are mak­ing this pos­si­ble.

At West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-vee, food waste has emerged as a key com­po­nent to its sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts. Cur­rently, the re­tailer di­verts more than 2 mil­lion pounds of food waste from land­fills ev­ery month. Some Hy-vee stores sell the com­post from their food waste-re­cy­cling ef­forts to cus­tomers, or use the com­post to fer­til­ize the gro­cer’s com­mu­nity gar­den plots.

“Food waste di­ver­sion is a key com­po­nent of Hy-vee’s over­all sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts,” af­firms Pat Hens­ley, the com­pany’s SVP non­foods, who over­sees its sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts. “Over the course of the past year, we have dra­mat­i­cally in­creased our ef­forts to di­vert food and other or­ganic waste from land­fills, be­cause we felt it was the right thing to do. It’s also ev­i­dent our em­ploy­ees un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence they are mak­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment, and that is some­thing they are tak­ing great pride in.”

Ac­cord­ing to Hy-vee, one ton of re­cy­cled ined­i­ble food waste saves three cu­bic yards of land­fill space, elim­i­nates about 5,000 gal­lons of meth­ane, helps re­tain 300 gal­lons of wa­ter per acre as com­post and re­duces the need for agri­cul­tural chem­i­cals, and gen­er­ates about 800 pounds of soil-en­rich­ing com­post.

Our em­ploy­ees un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence they are mak­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment, and that is some­thing they are tak­ing great pride in.” — Pat Hens­ley Hy-vee

Charg­ing Ahead

In­dus­try-wide, other sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gram en­hance­ments now in­clude elec­tric car-charg­ing sta­tions, rooftop so­lar ar­rays and rain catch­ment systems. While none of th­ese were part of gro­cers’ orig­i­nal goals, or only mildly so, they’ve con­tin­ued to gain mo­men­tum as new tech­nolo­gies and fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives have made such ac­com­plish­ments pos­si­ble.

Hy-vee is fur­ther down the road than many, with 103 elec­tric car-charg­ing ports at 32 stores in five metro areas, up 25 per­cent from 2014. Del­haize Amer­ica is get­ting ready to flip the switch on a 10-store test of elec­tric charg­ing sta­tions at Maine Han­naford stores, which will fully charge a car in 30 min­utes, about the time it takes to com­plete a weekly food-shop­ping trip. While Del­haize Amer­ica is in­ter­ested in the car-charg­ing pro­gram, Par­menter notes that it’s not a big focus area, “be­cause it doesn’t re­duce our car­bon foot­print. It’s more about be­ing a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of the com­mu­nity.” Ahold USA cur­rently has three sites, all in Mas­sachusetts, and is adding two more lo­ca­tions, one each in Mary­land and Con­necti­cut. Nel­son says the com­pany is work­ing on a long-term strat­egy for this ini­tia­tive.

Mean­while, so­lar panel ar­rays are crop­ping up on more store rooftops as in­stal­la­tion costs de­cline. Ahold USA cur­rently has 41 so­lar-pow­ered stores and three oth­ers run by fuel cells, while Hy-vee em­ploys so­lar pan­els to power park­ing lot lights and has in­stalled rooftop systems on some of its con­ve­nience stores. Weg­mans is slowly ex­pand­ing its rooftop so­lar pro­gram, with pan­els on three stores in New York, one of­fice build­ing and one dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, place­ment is based on a case-by-case ba­sis and re­quires a clear span on the roof, which also supports the store’s re­frig­er­a­tion unit.

Rain catch­ment is also gain­ing some at­ten­tion among re­tail­ers. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Mar­ket re­cently opened a cut­ting-edge lo­ca­tion in San Jose, Calif., that catches rain to feed the store’s land­scap­ing, while Weg­mans has been col­lect­ing rain­wa­ter for some time, and Ahold USA’S Nel­son says that the topic is “ripe for con­ver­sa­tion.”

ECO-FRIENDLY EN­DEAV­ORS Del­haize Amer­ica’s Food Lion and Han­naford stores em­ploy sig­nage in­form­ing cus­tomers of their green ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing LED lights in re­frig­er­ated cases and wa­ter­sav­ing seafood cases (top im­ages). Op­er­a­tionally, the stores col­lect card­board for re­cy­cling and check pro­duce sell-by dates for waste man­age­ment (bot­tom im­ages).

WANT NOT WASTE Many gro­cers are re­duc­ing waste by do­nat­ing “ugly” yet edi­ble items to food banks.

KEEP ON TRUCKIN A Greenru truck vis­its a Hy-vee store to col­lect or­ganic waste.

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