Sold on a green approach

Two years ago, a pilot scheme helped one shopping centre to work with its retailers to save energy, waste and water. Now, with momentum building, centres across the UK are benefitting, and their profits are rising. Chris Hodgson reports

UK retailers produce about 12M tonnes of solid waste a year, which costs the sector an annual £360M. And, with electricity bills increasing on average by 39.5% between 2005 and 2006, according the the DTI, the subject of utility usage is also a major issue for the industry.

But, by putting in place simple, no-cost and low-cost measures to reduce waste and energy consumption, retail businesses have the potential to cut costs and improve their environmental performance.

As well as financial benefits, improved resource efficiency can help businesses to comply with increasingly strict legislation designed to limit the environmental impact of an over-reliance on landfill, such as those governing packaging use.

In 2004, these issues led Envirowise to develop a pilot programme with the aim of helping managed shopping centres work in partnership with their retailers to improve resource efficiency and reduce costs, to the benefit of the centre and its tenants. The pilot led to the development of a managed shopping centre initiative, which Envirowise is running again this year.

The pilot was carried out at the Arndale Centre in Luton (now The Mall, Arndale), where retailers were invited to sign up to an environmental audit covering solid waste, energy and water use.

The pilot helped identify a number of priority issues for shopping centre management and their retailers. Opportunities to recycle packaging, reduce water consumption, and energy-saving measures were found to offer the most significant savings among the retail businesses involved. And, importantly, a strong partnership between shopping centre management and their tenants is vital to help the centre achieve its environmental goals.

Following the success of the pilot, Envirowise rolled-out the initiative last year and teamed up with four major UK shopping centres to help them improve their environmental performance.

Working in collaboration with 139 retail outlets, The Mall Arndale, Luton, The Trafford Centre, Manchester, High Chelmer, Chelmsford and Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth each worked with Envirowise to identify new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and save water and energy.

By the end of 2005, shopping centres and retailers involved in the campaign had received an on-site resource efficiency review from an environmental expert. This enabled each outlet to discuss issues relating to its waste, energy and water use and develop a tailored plan for action.

Shoppers were also encouraged to support participating retailers at waste-awareness events. In total, savings in the region of £300,000 a year were identified across the four centres involved, mainly through simple actions that cost little or nothing to put into place.

Paul Bentham, compliance manager at The Mall Arndale said: “With the general public becoming increasingly aware of retailers’ environmental policies, it is important for us to work together with organisations like Envirowise to identify improved ways to reduce waste.

“This campaign has helped us to identify substantial savings at a time when energy and utility costs continue to rise.”

And now another three high-profile shopping centres have signed up to the latest round of the campaign. The Meadows Centre in Chelmsford, the Kirkgate Centre in Bradford and one of the UK’s longest-standing shopping centres, the Whitgift Centre in Croydon, will work together with their retailers to implement a range of resource efficiency initiatives.

This year, plans are also in place to extend the initiative. A key element of the 2006 programme is the development of a toolkit that will act as a blueprint for other shopping centres wanting to take a similar approach in the future.

This will be important as it will give shopping centres the tools to drive forward their own environmental initiatives.

Chris Hodgson is managed shopping centre project manager for Envirowise.

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