Sustainability in Action in Convenience Stores

Unilever is convinced that businesses which address both the direct concerns of citizens and the needs of the environment will prosper over the long term.  This has been the driving force behind the creation of the Sustainable Living Plan and Partners for Growth has been reviewing the Plan to see in what ways convenience retailers can introduce sustainability to their business for long term success as well as environmental benefit.

Here are some things you could consider doing:

  1. Minimising food waste

    Put simply, food waste is money in the bin for a business. To keep your food wastage down to a minimum:

    • Monitor stock levels regularly in conjunction with your EPOS, so that you are ordering only what you expect to sell. Take into account seasonal changes so that you can take advantage of the different shopper habits – for example, ensure you have enough meat during BBQ season, but don’t keep stocks high once the weather changes.
    • Use a thermometer to check the temperatures of your chillers to ensure that they are correct as incorrect temperatures can lead to food spoilage / damage
    • Be creative! See if there are ways in which you can use any products that are approaching their sell by date – make sandwiches to sell as food to go, or those with cooking skills could use them to create pre-prepared ready meals.
    • Donate to charities supporting locals in need.
  2. Review Energy Usage and Costs

    Ensuring that you only use the resources you need makes sense for the environment as well as for the budget.

    • Refrigeration can account for up to 60% of a convenience store’s electricity costs, claims Ecomonitor, so ensure that yours is running at the right temperature and also investigate whether there could be longer term cost savings by updating your equipment for more energy efficient models.
    • Alcohol and soft drink chillers don’t have to be as cold as food chillers and can also be turned off overnight to help reduce costs.
    • Consider putting doors on your chillers - according to Convenience Store, doors were fitted to chillers at Crouch End Budgens and manager Andrew Thornton found that brought energy usage down 16% year on year. The whole job cost £30,000 and, with savings of £8,000 a year, this will be recouped in less than 4 years. Visit the CarbonTrust in advance of doing the work to see if you qualify for one of their loans.
    • Consider updating your lighting. LEDs use 4060% less energy than florescent lights so will have a significant impact on your bills[1].

    One of our mentoring winners, Perry Pirapakaran, undertook an energy audit – click here to see more details of how to save money on energy bills.

    Nualight (www.nualight.com)
  3. Recycle

    Suppliers like Unilever are looking at ways to minimize the amount of packaging used and to increase the amount of materials that can be recycled. Recycle any paper or plastic outer packaging that you can and speak to your local council, symbol group or recycling contractor about ways in which this can be done and compare costs if you don’t already know.

    • Reduce the amount of office waste to a minimum by not printing paper copies unless necessary and recycling any paper, printer cartridges etc
    • Prompt shoppers to bring your own bag, rather than using plastic ones all the time – maybe offer an incentive for using your own bag
    • Contact your local council to find out what local recycling schemes there are and publicize these in store.
  4. In your Community

    Place your store at the heart of the community by becoming a driving force for sustainability in your area.

    • Offer services such as used battery collections
    • Organise local events such as an environment week run in conjunction with a local school. Provide materials for kids to make ‘junk models’, offer a prize for environmental ideas which benefit your community, give a penny back for every drink bottle recycled
    • Provide badges to staff highlighting how many miles they’ve traveled to get to the store – this reinforces localness and community
    • Look at stocking local produce and have a shelf barker to educate on who produces the product and distance from the store

    Becoming involved in this way not only encourages people into the store to participate, but confirms your role at the centre of the local area and builds goodwill, which will help to ensure your continued success.

    Retailer Advisory Panel member Jonathan James has long put sustainability at the heart of his business. “Back in 2010 when I put doors on chillers, this was considered a backwards step. But I was convinced that there would be benefits to me and my customers – reducing our environmental footprint, lowering my energy bills and making the shopping experience better for customers by keeping the cold air inside the chiller rather than around the store. Since then we have gone on to make choices for all of the stores on the basis of what the impact will be on our sustainability and I am convinced that this has been the best way forward for my business.”


Sustainability: Action Points for Convenience Retailers

  •  Reduce Food Waste
  •  Review Energy
  •  Recycle
  •  Engage the community