How Green is Retail Ready to Be?

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Peter Belisle
President of Energy and Sustainability Services

Having discussed energy and sustainability opportunities with retailers and shopping center owners over the past few years, I’ve learned that the sector has a lot in common with other real estate property types. Everyone wants to be green, but there has to be a solid business case for any strategy that costs a substantial amount of money. As with any industry, some players use sustainability as part of their branding, and are willing to spend money on facility strategies that further that goal while other companies are unable to make the financial case for any initiative that doesn’t pay for itself in the first year.

It’s also clear that the retail sector has a unique set of challenges in fostering energy efficiency and sustainability. The large percentage of common-area space in malls, the intense focus on shopper comfort and convenience, and several other factors complicate the greening of retail properties. The economic climate over the past couple of years hasn’t helped, either.

But in speaking with people here at ICSC over the past day and a half, I sense a changing mood. Retailers and owners are collaborating more than ever to develop mutually beneficial sustainability strategies. Green products and services are quickly becoming more effective and less expensive, closing the return-on-investment gap. Shoppers, particularly young people, are making it clear that environmentalism is not a short-term fad.

Will 2010 be the year that the floodgates open on energy retrofits and LEED certifications in the retail sector? Maybe, maybe not—but it’s coming.

Check out the latest at ICSC.

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