A Nexus of Sustainability

The amount of energy and other resources that flow through food retail establishments dwarfs almost every other industry. This reality is both a challenge, and an opportunity.

When you consider the supply lines, the frequency of shopper visits, the amount of consumable items purchased, and the impacts from energy, water, chemicals, recyclable materials and engagement of communities and employees, it becomes clear that no business sector that has the same opportunity to demonstrate and communicate the importance of sustainability as the grocery sector.

No business sector that has the same opportunity to demonstrate and communicate the importance of sustainability as the grocery sector.

Groceries Are the New Main Street, But That Expansion Has Consequences

Food retailers, on average, are visited two times per week, with as many as 2,000 to 5,000 shoppers per day. Shoppers don’t just rely on food retail to buy food, but also 80 percent of all fuel. Additionally, people use food retail establishments to access medicines, banking, automotive repair, and many other services critical to maintaining modern life. With a store in nearly every community, there are few places of business that represent such an important place to the average consumer.

With a store in nearly every community, there are few places of business that represent such an important place to the average consumer.

Food retailers are among the highest energy users of all commercial building types (51.5kwh/ft2). Likewise, food retailers use substantial amounts of water (on average 2.6-4.5 gallons per transaction), chemicals, and packaging products. Refrigerants used within food retail represent some of the most potent greenhouse gases on earth, and leak on average 25% annually. While much of this resource use is designed to protect food integrity, retailers continue to waste food at a rate of 260 pounds per week (which equates to 573 million tons annually), leading to reduced profits and increased costs and pollution.

Food Retailers’ Large Impact Means They Have a Greater Responsibility

On average, a quarter of all retail jobs are in the food industry. Many grocery stores have as many as 200 employees in a single store. Such numbers, especially when distributed in both urban and rural areas, represent some of the best employment opportunities in many communities. With this many people from a community employed at their local grocery store, it shows how integrated a grocery store is in community life.

All decisions made by food retailer have huge impacts.

Considering the integrated role of a food retail store in our communities, and the impact of food retail on local jobs and opportunity, all decisions made by food retailers have huge impacts. Likewise, given the huge throughput of energy and resources, these establishments are key drivers of resource management decisions that impact people’s workplaces, homes and daily lives.

Finally, with food being such a critical resource, and food retail stores supplying many of the non-food essentials of daily life, the need for companies to be aware of the magnitude of their role as the nexus of sustainability cannot be overstated.