The Kroger Co., often just referred to as Kroger, is a popular American supermarket chain first founded in 1883 in the Ohio city of Cincinnati. It is one of the largest grocery store chains in the United States with more than 3,600 stores. Kroger comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, including supermarkets, department stores, hypermarkets, and convenience stores. Just like a majority of other supermarket chains throughout the United States, Kroger is taking a number of necessary steps to bump up its sustainability record and become more environmentally friendly. This includes opening up a lot of recycling ports in grocery stores and initiating a program to limit the utilization of plastic bags for groceries. Listed below are just a few of the ways that Kroger is taking a stand to become more sustainable and protect the environment for generations to come.
1 ) Sustainable Seafood Policy. As one of the largest traditional grocery retailers in the United States, Kroger realizes the important role it plays in the responsible sourcing of all seafood for products. As such, Kroger will not purchase seafood that has been illegally caught or comes from unregulated fisheries. In 2009, Kroger partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to find adequate sustainable fisheries to source seafood from. Kroger also complies with the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices Program in regards to industry accepted guidelines for all farmed raised seafood.
2 ) Carbon Footprint and Energy Reduction. Kroger has been using a lot of new technology in their stores to increase energy efficiency and decrease their carbon footprint. For example, all stores built after the year 2000 consumer 30 percent less energy. All stores are equipped with LED lighting and motion sensors. There are also skylights to increase natural lighting, control systems for all HVAC and lighting systems, and a number of Energy Star appliances.
3 ) Reducing Waste. One of the primary sustainability priorities for Kroger’s is waste. Since 2010, the grocery chain has been making a number of strides in reducing waste, including reducing packaging, diverting waste from landfills, and recycling plastic bags. For example, all food scraps from meat and deli departments are picked up by local companies along with old produce to be composted. As well in 2010, Kroger manufacturing plants have been able to reduce waste sent to landfills by more than 20 million pounds – a 30 percent reduction since 2009.
4 ) Reducing Plastic Bag Use. Kroger is always looking for ways to reduce the number of plastic bags used and help customers make the transition to reusable bags. By 2014, Kroger wants to save one billion plastic bags via education, signage, and aiding in changing customer habits. Kroger has a “Fill the Bag” training to teach employees how to optimally fill plastic grocery bags so not too many are used, reducing the number of plastic bags at retail locations. In 2011, over five million reusable bags were sold.
5 ) Transportation Efficiency. Kroger is always looking for new, more efficient ways to transport products to stores throughout the United States. The company’s fleet consists of 8,200 trailers and 1,200 tractors, plus there are over 2,500 third party tractors and trailers utilized for product deliveries. By 2010, Kroger was able to improve fleet efficiency by almost ten percent. The goal is to improve total fleet efficiency by 40 percent by the year 2014 by employing fuel-saving strategies, routine maintenance to ensure all equipment is at peak performance, and reducing the total number of miles traveled.
6 ) Food Safety. Kroger believes food safety to be a top priority in all stores; ensuring customers receive fresh, wholesome, and safe food. The supermarket chain has put in place a number of best practices to ensure the safety of all food items. For example, bi-monthly food safety review audits are done in every store to ensure food safety.
7 ) Animal Welfare. Kroger has made a strong commitment to their business practices, including the human treatment of all animals from the farm to the table. Kroger does not currently operate farms or animal processing facilities, but ensure that all suppliers meet the Food Marketing Institute’s Animal Welfare standards and guidelines.
8 ) Renewable Energy. In 2010, Kroger completed its very first wind energy project with two new installed wind turbines in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for Kroger’s Turkey Hill Dairy. The turbines will supply 25 percent of all annual electricity needs, enough to produce 15 million gallons of ice tea and six million gallons of ice cream. In terms of solar energy, in 2011 Kroger completed the first phase of installing solar photovoltaic systems on the roofs of four stores and one distribution center. It will produce around 900 kilowatts of solar energy capacity.
9 ) Customer Sustainability. Kroger Manufacturing operates a number of certified organic processing facilities. Kroger has also partnered with HarvestMark to enable customers to learn about where produce sold at all Kroger stores is grown. Kroger also works with a number of local farmers and suppliers to provide locally produced goods to all grocery stores. Customers can look for “locally grown and produced” signs around the stores.
10 ) Portland Kroger LEEDs the Way. A Kroger store in Portland, Oregon was able to reach LEED Silver Certification as it reached the environmental sustainability guidelines set up by the United States Green Building Council. It is the first store to achieve this rating and features items like increased insulation along exterior walls to decrease energy costs, water-saving fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms, skylights, efficient refrigeration and ventilation systems, and concrete floors that do not necessitate chemicals for cleaning. While the renovations cost more than normal renovations, the store will make it back tenfold in energy savings. According to Justin Doak, the manager of the LEED for Retail program, “[Supermarket] energy bills are so high because of refrigeration that they are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient. So, it’s a little more money upfront in construction costs but tremendous savings in the long run. And it’s the right thing for the environment.”
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at email@example.com.