The supermarket industry is fiercely competitive, and it's difficult for any business to make a profit. Margins are razor-thin, and expenses – ranging from inventory to labor to maintenance – are always steep. For any business leader who wants to keep the enterprise in the black, there's very little room for error.
"Supermarkets can potentially cause a great deal of harm to the environment."
Compounding the challenge is that staying profitable isn't the only priority. Another area of focus has gained greater importance in recent years – the need to remain eco-friendly. Between their refrigeration, lighting and more, supermarkets can potentially cause a great deal of harm to the environment. They're consuming massive amounts of energy, and if they use it inefficiently, the waste can really add up.
The food retail industry is currently making some key changes to reduce its carbon footprint. It's important to discuss why and how.
Why better maintenance matters
It's clear why making a profit is important to food retail leaders – after all, that's the goal for any business. But why is maintenance now being seen as equally important?
According to Progressive Grocer, the reason is twofold. Mitch Knapke, director of food retail marketing at Emerson Climate Technologies in St. Louis, told the news source about a couple of key motivating factors.
"Consumer awareness and government regulations and pressure are two key drivers pushing for more green considerations," Knapke said.
Government institutions, most notably the Environmental Protection Agency, have cracked down on carbon emissions and thus put supermarket maintenance under the microscope. Meanwhile, consumers are also looking to patronize businesses that are eco-friendly.
Making refrigeration more sustainable
Refrigeration is the key area where supermarkets can improve their maintenance strategies. Every day, stores' refrigeration infrastructures consume a massive amount of energy, and they also leak a significant volume of their refrigerants. Dustan Atkinson, sales manager at supermarket systems at Heatcraft/Kysor Warren in Georgia, believes that keeping a closer eye on refrigeration design and installation can help.
"Much of the work currently going into improving operations is focused directly on refrigeration," Atkinson told Progressive Grocer. "This is true because refrigeration systems represent a large portion of both energy use and direct emissions."
Ideally, stores would be able to make their refrigerations systems more sustainable, affordable, flexible and energy-efficient. If they can achieve all of the above, they'll likely curry the favor of both their customer bases and the EPA.
Shedding light on a better future
Aside from refrigeration, lighting is another key area where supermarkets can improve, in terms of both reputation and regulatory compliance. Many stores today have outdated lighting systems – but David Etzler, CEO of SIB Lighting in South Carolina, told Progressive Grocer that this is a fixable problem.
"By replacing older, inefficient lights with LED, not only will you save money, but you will enhance the look of the products in the cooler, and the ability to control LED lights is much easier, giving you the ability to put in motion sensors and other controls to reduce energy use," Etzler said.
Ushering in better maintenance strategies is a long-term process. It includes refrigeration, lighting and a host of other concerns. It might be worth outsourcing the maintenance function to qualified professionals who are up to the challenge.