As retailers enter the New Year, rumors are flying as to what the next 12 months will bring. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of crystal-ball forecasting, but I think it’s safe to say that retailers—and consumers—will be treading very carefully during the first few months of the year as they wait to see what the economy and new administration will bring.
But even as retailers remain cautious nearly across the board, there is one area in which they will remain bullish: sustainability. While cost cutting is the order of the day, most chains continue to invest in green initiatives, from renewable energy to more fuel-efficient transportation to recycled materials.
In a recent report from Panel Intelligence, 80% of corporate sustainability executives surveyed from across North America planned to maintain or increase levels of sustainability-related spending in 2009, despite the current economic conditions.
Eighty-two percent of respondents rated energy efficiency as currently the most important area of focus and investment, and a majority of respondents believe capital remains available for sustainability initiatives.
“Our ‘Quarterly Sustainability Tracking Study’ clearly illustrates that sustainability and clean-technology initiatives have achieved a tipping point and are no longer perceived by U.S. organizations as an optional expense,” said Scott Packard, VP of quantitative research for Panel Intelligence, Cambridge, Mass. “Rather, sustainability is an opportunity to achieve a greater competitive advantage and higher efficiency, even in a down economy.”
Along those same lines, management-consulting firm Booz & Co. has called green the new lean. While this might be overstating the case, the company noted in its year-end letter—and rightfully so in my opinion—that green initiatives have achieved what most lean programs could not: They have broadly eliminated waste and increased efficiency throughout the organization, without incurring the resentment of employees. What began as an exercise in corporate social responsibility, according to Booz & Co., is now a major source of cost savings.
“Beyond the cost and environmental benefits, the shift to greener operations attracts customers, motivates employees and anticipates stricter regulation not only in the United States and Europe, but in many of the emerging economies around the world,” the company noted.
Chain Store Age has been reporting on retailers’ sustainability efforts for some time now, from full-issue studies to a green page on its Web site (
And now Chain Store Age is extending its green coverage even further, with the launch of a monthly green section, G4R. This month marks its debut, and you can find it on . If you have any story ideas or topics that you would like to see addressed, please drop me a note. Your feedback is always appreciated!