Meet the Sustainability Leader: Pets At Home’s James Kokiet – Energy Manager 2018

Animal welfare is paramount at Pets At Home - it's one of the retailer's core business values. By aligning a major energy efficiency drive with these core values, the company's energy manager James Kokiet was able to secure the internal buy-in he needed to deliver the largest CAPEX project the retailer has ever completed.

Pets at Home now claims to be the UK’s first specialist pet retailer and vet group to have zero carbon stores and vet surgeries due to the actions Kokiet has implemented.

At a cost of £7.8m, Project Aether involved installing LED lights and Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) to 430 stores in just 12 months. The quantities of lights installed were staggering – they included 12,301 high bay LEDs, 15,482 recessed 600×600 LEDs, and 1,099 recessed 1200×600 LEDs.

Mindful that an infrastructure upgrade of this scale needed to be commercially attractive, Kokiet initially undertook 15 pilots to develop the business case for an estate-wide roll out with a payback period of 2.57 years. Project Aether should reduce electricity usage by one-third across the retailer’s estate, delivering annual cost savings of £2.874m and CO2e savings of 9,762 tonnes.

Kokiet also wanted to ensure the project would benefit the animals that are cared for on-site at Pets At Home. Through the BEMS, eight temperature sensors have been installed in critical pet welfare areas, enabling store colleagues and the pet welfare team to continually monitor the animals’ wellbeing and act immediately if an issue is identified. The company believes it is the first major pet retailer to have this functionality.

“We are driven by the ethos to put pets before profit,” Kokiet says. “Being able to demonstrate that Project Aether benefited pet welfare was of greater importance than any cost savings. Through working in partnership with the pet team, we designed the system to significantly enhance our ability to monitor and identify any potential pet welfare issues before they actually happened.”

As part of this, Pets At Home has developed an online platform which the pet team and stores can access to remotely monitor pet welfare information – this platform contains a live feed of the temperature in each store, with key screens showing pet welfare impacts. As well as a reporting dashboard for the pet team, the system has the ability to alert store colleagues if the temperatures fall outside of the normal operating range for a period of time, so corrective action can be taken.

In terms of energy consumption, store level performance is tracked on a weekly basis via smart meters. Current performance is more than 6% ahead of forecast, which had a 33% saving already built in. Store performance is also ranked, and the company looks at the worst performing 15 stores each week in order to tackle any underperformance.

Kokiet has also gained approval to purchase renewable (REGO backed) electricity across the group’s supply contract, as well as carbon offsets to cover gas consumption. Sourcing renewable electricity is expected to reduce Pets At Home’s carbon footprint by over 30,000 tonnes of CO2e, whilst the purchase of carbon offsets will cover around 3,000 tonnes of CO2e, equating to a forecasted 70% CO2e footprint reduction.

Pets at Home’s approach to energy reduction also enabled the project to go a step further. The specification of replacement High Bay fittings, which make up the majority of sales floor lighting, together with built-in sensors to take advantage of natural light entering the stores, meant both financial and environmental impacts could be maximised.

LED lights and BEMS have since become a standard part of the company’s existing M&E specification for all new stores and refits. The LEDs also come with a 5-7 year parts and labour warranty, which is projected to save some £150,000 each year in avoided maintenance costs.

Last but not least, Project Aether involved a significant cultural change element for staff as it basically took local control of AC away from them. To ensure employee engagement on such issues, Kokiet developed an extensive communications and engagement plan to communicate the project out to store colleagues and area managers, to support a smooth installation.

As part of this plan, an email was sent to every Pets At Home store four weeks before the planned installation, then another email two weeks before detailing further information. The week prior to installation, every store was called individually to ensure they understood the aims and benefits of the project.

Kokiet has now set up an energy saving steering board comprising key stakeholders across the business, which meets on a regular basis to help set the strategic direction for the project and to support group-wide engagement.

What the judges said: “James represents everything you would want to see in an energy manager. He has a clear and exciting vision for his company’s energy usage and has successfully translated that vision across the organisation, recently securing funding to implement a large-scale capital project – a fantastic achievement.”

edie’s 2019 Sustainability Leaders Award

Now in their 12th year, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards have undergone a major revamp, with a host of new categories and judges, a new Awards venue, and a new Mission Possible theme – making 6 February 2019 the biggest night of the sustainable business calendar.

The entry deadline for the 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday, 14 September 2018. The Awards will then take place on the night of 6 February 2019 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 


Matt Mace

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