For many store managers, it's common to think of supermarket maintenance as an area where they have free reign – they can make their own decisions for the short term and long, and they're free to allocate their budgets as they please. But there's one thing to keep in mind – if they make choices that are environmentally reckless, the government will be there to intervene. The Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on the "bad apples" where maintenance is concerned.
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, supermarkets both large and small are at risk of EPA sanctioning if they make questionable maintenance decisions. EIA Global reported that Safeway and Costco, two retailers with more than 2,000 combined stores and annual net sales of over $36 billion and $102 billion respectively, have not been immune. EPA crackdowns on their maintenance practices led to recent fines of $600,000 for Safeway and $335,000 for Costco.
Danielle Gagne, climate policy analyst at the EIA, says this disciplinary action is part of a growing trend.
"The ozone hole may be slowly recovering, but these 'bad apples' are undermining those efforts, and the EPA is starting to take notice," Gagne warned. "Gone are the days of senselessly destroying the ozone layer and global climate. Consumers expect more from their supermarket, and the EPA is beginning to hold supermarkets accountable for their actions."
The following are three examples of the EPA's expectations for America's supermarkets:
Reduced refrigerant leaks
Refrigerant leaks are the No. 1 source of negative attention for supermarkets, both from the EPA and the media. The EPA, for its part, is expecting store chains to reduce their leak rates to "state of the art" levels – i.e., under 10 percent. Large and small supermarkets alike should begin working toward this goal.
Better infrastructures in place
A store's refrigeration infrastructure should ideally be a source of green benefits on a daily basis, not just when it's preventing a leak. The EPA is leaning on managers to install better technology, such as CO2 transcritical systems and hydrocarbon micro-distributed systems (or other similar systems with low global warming potential) to help make this happen.
Commitment to long-term change
The EPA doesn't just want lip service from today's supermarkets – it wants a real commitment to improving practices over the long haul. The organization is pressuring supermarkets to phase out their HFC refrigerants and replace them with natural alternatives within the next year, so that the entire industry can enjoy a green, sustainable and economically viable future.