It's the economy, stupid


Last year Canadian Grocer magazine’s managing editor Nancy Kwon approached me with their idea to expand the role of the magazine in the Canadian grocery industry through the use of bloggers.

Given my interest in public policy and the built environment, as well as my success in retrofitting my store in Westport, Ontario, naturally I was keen to accept her invitation.

Blogging is nothing new to me.

For over a year now, I’ve been blogging on a U.S. industry website and have had a number of my blogs published as columns. What I like most about the experience is the opportunity to share ideas, effect change in our industry, and hopefully contribute to the success of others.

Canadian Grocer has asked me to focus on issues and ideas of the environment and sustainability.

At this point, I can imagine that some of you reading this are thinking, “Oh great, a proselytizing tree hugger.” Not to worry, I’m not here to lecture you about environment; there are lots of other forums where you can read about those issues. What I would like to discuss with you are the opportunities that new ways of doing business create, and the increased profitability that comes with being mindful of how we use finite resources.

In 2010 I ran as the Green Party of Ontario candidate in the by-election to replace Bob Runciman at Queens Park. Much to the chagrin of die-hard Greens I would regularly proclaim that, “I’m not an environmentalist.” Also, at no time during that campaign did the words “global warming” pass my lips. That is not to discount the real and pressing problems that are associated with climate change. It’s simply a realization that most of us are more likely to change our behaviour out of economic benefit before environmental concern.

As a grocer, I believe that my business is only as successful, and as profitable as it is mindful of how we use the resources that support our operations.

Any regular reader of Canadian Grocer will know that this idea is not exclusive to my company. Let’s look back to the August 2010 “Special Green Issue”. Featured companies included Loblaw, Walmart, as well as my store, Kudrinko’s. And while I’m grateful for the company I kept in that issue, we all know there are many other similar stories across Canada that we can all learn from.

Through this blog I hope to share some of the ideas that I have implemented in my business, detail projects that we have underway, and inspire others to make similar investments. One might ask why I wouldn’t keep those ideas to myself in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage.

The reality is, the big corporate grocers have already figured this out and are making plans on how to deal with rising costs. Unless independents like me make similar strategic investments in the coming years, pretty soon there won’t be many of us left. We’ll become victims of our own complacency in an ever changing economy.

In the words of Adam Werbach, the youngest president in the history of the Sierra Club, “I don’t want to have to talk about death anymore. I want to build a better world.” So let’s accept the inevitability of higher energy costs. Let’s recognize the challenge of peak oil. Adversity breeds innovation. Those who innovate find success. Talk of sustainability and the environment shouldn’t be viewed as an irritant; we should look at it as an opportunity.

In the coming months I’ll share with you the benefits of tracking carbon emissions. I’ll look at off-grid solar parking lot lighting. We’ll review the case for retrofitting refrigerated cases with LED lighting and ecm motors. And discuss many more ways that we can all benefit from building more efficient grocery stores.

On final note, a couple of weeks ago my wife Martha and I took our boys, Patrick (age 6) and Kyle (age 5) to see the movie the Lorax. We weren’t sure how much Kyle got out of the movie given 5 bathroom breaks, however, last week while at the boys’ school, Kyle took me to the bulletin board to show me “his Earth”. Seems like reason enough to consider a change.

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