Miller Zell isn’t about politics or virtue signaling or buzzwords. We’re for innovation, business solutions and the efficient design and execution of branded environments that create great customer experiences.
So, when we talk about sustainability as part of our core values, it’s a business decision, now and into the future. And we’re far from alone in this belief.
“ESG [Environment, Social & Governance] programs improve company financial performance, help secure talent, strengthen the employee value proposition, attract and retain customers and raise capital,” according to a KPMG survey.
Let’s examine how.
Energy efficiency and resource management provide cost savings
This isn’t rocket science.
Investing in energy efficiency and recycling pays for itself. Sustainable practices typically involve measures to reduce energy consumption, optimize resource usage and minimize waste. These efforts translate into lower utility bills, reduced operating costs and decreased waste disposal expenses.
For instance, implementing energy-efficient lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can lead to substantial long-term savings. In 2018, Walmart announced switching to LED lights in its parking lots cut its annual energy costs by $200 million. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, also created Project Gigaton™ to engage suppliers in climate action to reduce or avoid one billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030.
Retailers can minimize packaging waste and optimize their supply chain to reduce transportation costs. Sustainable supply chain practices, such as consolidating shipments and reducing packaging materials, not only reduce a retailer’s carbon footprint but also result in substantial cost reductions.
At Miller Zell, our one-megawatt solar array on the roof of our corporate headquarters in Atlanta offsets our non-renewable energy use by nearly one-half each year, reducing our annual carbon footprint by 1,206 tons.
Strategic sustainability initiatives drive operational efficiencies, and that improves the bottom line.
Green initiatives build brand reputation and customer loyalty
According to Edelman’s 2023 “Trust Barometer,” 76% of consumers worldwide are concerned about climate change as an “existential threat.” Meanwhile, 63% of consumers will “buy and advocate for brands based on my beliefs and values.”
Initiating and communicating your sustainability efforts with stores, products and operations will enhance your brand’s reputation and then drive customer loyalty and sales. This is particularly true for younger customers.
This is a large part of your strategic public relations and marketing. In fact, many customers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, even during challenging economic times.
Risk mitigation by getting ahead of regulatory compliance
While there certainly are political debates about new government regulations, the general evolution of environmental regulations strongly suggests it’s better to get ahead of new rules than play catch up.
Strategically adopting sustainability initiatives help retailers prepare for and then meet evolving regulations and reduce legal risks associated with non-compliance. By proactively addressing sustainability concerns, retailers can avoid potential fines, legal battles and, yes, reputational damage.
Risk mitigation here also is about anticipating future challenges, such as when extreme weather events might disrupt the supply chain. Sustainable practices, such as diversifying suppliers and optimizing transportation routes, then end up sounding just like sound business practices. And these practices trickle down — see Walmart and its conscientious partners — and help improve supplier resiliency and their drive for innovation to stay competitive.
Improving associate engagement
As previously noted, a significant majority of U.S. and global citizens are worried about climate change and care about sustainable practices. How can this not include your associates?
A sincere embrace of sustainability initiatives will have a positive impact on your workforce. Make it clear that sustainability matters inside your offices and stores and is a core corporate value. When paired with the bottom-line business value that a CFO can demonstrate, it establishes a firm foundation of a company culture that is both “wise and good.”
Employees are more engaged and motivated when they work for profitable companies that also prioritize environmental and social responsibility. Retailers that show they truly care about sustainability can expect higher levels of employee satisfaction, which can translate into increased productivity and reduced turnover, further improving the bottom line.
Anticipating the future is a fundamental part of business strategy
A company trying to minimize its carbon footprint and maximize its recycling efforts shouldn’t be controversial. When Miller Zell designers, engineers and project managers include sustainability as a consideration when selecting materials and anticipating execution demands for a project, it’s about increasing our value to our client, not virtue signaling.
Businesses that get ahead of sustainability will be more competitive in the future than those that don’t.