Sustainability Opportunities in Convenience Retail

While the business drivers for sustainability and the triple bottom line approach are clear, the business opportunities can be even more obvious. Convenience retailers have been embracing sustainability solutions over the past several years as an effective way of meeting their core business objectives.

Improving operational efficiencies is one of the traditional ways that businesses reduce costs. Fortunately, many of the ways to reduce costs in the convenience store business also create environmental and other sustainability benefits.

Some of the operational projects that convenience stores implement that also address consumer sustainability concerns include: 

  • Reducing Energy Use: According to the EPA, a traditional convenience store is one of the most energy-intensive small businesses to operate. 
  • Reducing Water Use: Some of the biggest drivers of water use in a convenience store are restrooms, kitchens and landscaping irrigation. 
  • Converting to Renewable Energy: Some convenience store owners seek further cost savings and environmental benefits by switching to renewable energy sources like solar or wind. 
  • Building “Green” Facilities: The choices made during the design process determine the long-term operating costs and environmental impacts. 
  • Reducing Food Waste: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that food waste is 22% of the U.S. waste stream, the largest component of everyday trash. 
  • It’s also important to avoid short-term thinking—sustainable business strategies are not one-off solutions to solve a constantly evolving and long-term issue. 

Given the cost of opening a convenience store, it may be tempting for those new to the industry to purchase the least expensive equipment. While this practice may reduce the upfront costs to open a store, over the course of time this will drastically increase the long-term costs of operating the store and yield unnecessarily high electricity costs.

Strategic-minded retailers recognize that long-term profitability depends, in part, on reducing operating costs. As a result, they look for the most affordable energy-efficient equipment.

There are resources available, such as those from the Small Business Administration. The SBA maintains an online list of grants, rebates and low-interest loans to help businesses become more energy efficient.