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Five Benefits of the Sustainable Food Retail Certification Program

Food retailers across the planet are taking on high-profile sustainability projects, from adding glass doors to refrigerated display cases to stocking sustainably harvested seafood. They are also taking steps to produce zero waste and reduce packaging. While these projects represent important steps forward, the real challenge for many food retail companies is the lack of a store-centered strategy to help the company meet its sustainability goals. For food retailers, improving sustainability performance company-wide is a daunting challenge if a systematic approach to sustainability is not integrated into store operations. 

Ratio Institute’s Sustainable Food Retail Certification can enhance visibility into store operations and help companies leverage those insights across the portfolio in order to identify strategies for achieving sustainability performance goals. 

1. Cuts Costs 

For food retail, it has always been easier to cut costs than to increase sales. Yet, most store operators are focused purely on top-line revenue rather than on seizing the massive opportunity to increase profits through simple expense reduction. The Sustainable Food Retail Certification Program helps food retailers to cut costs associated with energy, water, and waste by compiling key data about stores so that operators can prioritize projects based on that data. The self-assessment quantifies the value of operational sustainability for each store by calculating the value of current sustainable practices and illuminating cost-saving opportunities, including how those opportunities affect the bottom line. Certified stores can save between $70,000 to $120,000 per year when they implement the sustainability practices identified through participation in the program. 

2. Engages Employees to Drive Sustainability in Your Stores  

The Sustainable Food Retail Certification engages store employees while building and aligning their connection to corporate sustainability efforts. Most food retail employees are Millennials and Gen Z, groups that care deeply about health, wellness, and the environment and want to work for businesses that are making real, credible, and transparent improvements. Feeling like part of the solution to help move the planet toward more sustainable practices helps motivate food retail associates in the workplace. 

Other programs miss the opportunity for employee engagement at the store level and therefore don’t get the benefits that engaged employees bring to a customer service-driven industry. The Sustainable Food Retail Certification program educates employees on the savings behind each practice. Following certification, many retailers have seen an increase in staff morale and enthusiasm. Recent Gallup polls have shown that engaged employees are 18% more productive and that companies with engaged employees are 23% more profitable.  

3. Systemizes and Quantifies Sustainable Operations 

Getting certified helps stores move beyond what Joel Makower calls “random acts of greenness.” The comprehensive Sustainable Food Retail Certification approach is not limited to “award-winning,” high-performing, or new stores, but can include all stores in the chain or a district, providing the food retailer with a points-based spectrum of how stores are being managed for sustainability across the portfolio. By benchmarking all stores in a chain, the Sustainable Food Retail Certification reduces randomness and systemizes the company’s approach to addressing each store through leveraging a tiered program that provides a roadmap for improvement. It also consolidates the findings for corporate-focused reporting on insights and strategies.  

4. Expeditious and Affordable  

The Sustainable Food Retail Certification offers recognition for sustainability leadership in an efficient and cost-effective package. The approach helps a retailer quickly and effectively move toward more sustainable practices. A store associate can complete the self-assessment, which documents current practices and highlights no-cost opportunities to apply sustainable practices. It takes about 90 minutes, and the insights that it offers can be leveraged immediately.  

5. Distinguishes Your Store from the Competition 

With over three-quarters of consumers interested in supporting businesses that are striving to be more sustainable, food retailers have opportunities to more effectively leverage achievements in operational sustainability and grow customer loyalty. Over the past 20 years, various market research firms (most notably Nielsen and Cone Communications) have reported an increasing desire on the part of consumers for more sustainable products and for the businesses they patronize to be more socially and environmentally responsible. This is a great opportunity for food retail, since consumers have more contact with grocery stores than with almost any other business. A typical grocery store can receive between 3,000-5,000 customer visits per day, and Americans on average visit the grocery store 1.6 times per week. Each visit is an opportunity to leverage marketing strategies to connect with customers around shared values. The Sustainable Food Retail Certification is the only recognized sustainability program that clearly communicates food retail leadership on an issue that matters to customers – and backs it up with data. 

In short, Ratio Institute’s Sustainable Food Retail Certification offers retailers a way to stand out from the crowd with an affordable and expeditious program that highlights their sustainability performance – and shows how they can improve it while also cutting costs, systematizing work practices, and engaging employees.