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Environmental sustainability initiative


If you’ve ever sat on a board of a government organization then there is no doubt that you’re painfully aware of how governments love to measure the output of its departments. As a student of politics and having sat on a public sector board myself, I’m all too familiar with “balanced score cards” and endless accreditations.

About five years ago the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (now a wing of the Retail Council of Canada) came together to develop an environmental sustainability initiative or ESI for short. The initial purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate to the government that grocers were taking their environmental responsibilities seriously and doing their part to reduce carbon emissions. The message was clear, fail to clearly demonstrate that you’re doing your part and you’ll be subject to legislation and regulation.

Two groups appear to have emerged from those companies who have participated. Some have supported the effort by simply reporting their data. This is a big help to CFIG and RCC in their dealings with government officials. Meanwhile, others have used their reports to increase the competitiveness of their businesses.

Given my interest in public policy, business, the environment, and technology, I was keen to participate because I viewed the ESI program as an opportunity to set benchmarks and compare my data year over year as I made changes to my store.

Originally built in 1964, our store had a lot of issues. Older individual remote compressors didn’t manage our energy consumption well. Refrigerant leaks meant occasional replacement of gas. Meanwhile our store design contributed to poor air quality causing our equipment to work harder than necessary. We needed to address our situation to remain competitive on the expense side of the ledger and we needed to monitor our success in making the necessary changes.

By far the best investment we could have made to determine our success was by signing up for the ESI program. For a small yearly fee and a couple of hours of data collection once a year we had verifiable measure of our successes and our challenges.

Ward Hanlon, Vice-President of Industry Relations at CFIG confirms that I have not been alone in my experience, “CFIG and its members have been enthusiastic supporters of  this industry wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission since its inception in 2007. Members who are engaged in the program of tracking emissions not only are seen by their customers and community as a leaders in carbon reduction they also have benefitted by identifying opportunities for cost improvements and savings.”

Having a reliable reporting tool which shows where your emissions are coming from is an invaluable resource for understanding how to cut those emissions. Prior to participating in the ESI program I would have thought that electricity and fuel would be the big contributors to my emissions. To my surprise, even small leaks of refrigerant gas have a huge impact on the environment.

Prior to the retrofit of our store we experienced one refrigerant leak in 2008 which resulted in a carbon emission of nearly 35 metric tonnes. That one leak was responsible for 20 per cent of our emissions for the year. Numbers at Tesco seem to back up this experience. In their 2007 emissions report, refrigerant losses amounted to 25 per cent of the carbon footprint of the company.

Given our increased awareness of the impact of refrigerant leaks we ensured that our new refrigeration system was installed with monitoring equipment to help us detect leaks before they become a problem. Since that leak in 2008 our only loss of refrigerant was 2 lbs. of R22 from an air conditioner in one of our offices. Not only have we reduced our impact on the environment but we’ve avoided replacing costly gases.

We continue to modernize our equipment creating a more comfortable shopping experience for our customers, a better working environment for our employees and making our store more competitive in the market place. In terms of energy consumption we continue to strive for efficiencies and we look yearly to our Carbon Counted ESI report to verify our progress.

In 2011 our carbon emissions measured 10.57 kg of CO2 per square foot. That’s 55.56 per cent lower than the ESI average of 23.79 kg per square foot. Using the data we continue to collect on a yearly basis we’re determined to get our footprint into single digit territory.

Measuring and reporting of carbon emissions is good for business too. We have posted our kudrinkos-carbon-footprint-report-2011 on our website and we share our results though social media. By participating in the ESI program you can verifiably report your efforts to your customers, many of whom are increasingly aware of issues surrounding corporate responsibility.

I hope you’ll consider joining me on this program. To enroll you can contact Ward Hanlon at CFIG. If you have any questions about my experience I’d be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to drop me an email at [email protected].

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