Fruit and vegetables on the supermarket shelves
Business Innovation

The Journey to a Sustainable Future

Written By: Harri Vivian
July 11, 2023
4 min read

The effects of climate change are being felt in every pocket of the world. In the UK specifically, we are experiencing abnormal summer heatwaves and wetter winters – resulting in flooding and damage to homes and livelihoods. In Wales, an entire village (Fairbourne) needs to be relocated as a result of the sea levels rising and coastal erosion.

While the drive to net zero needs to be led at a national and international level, large organisations and businesses have to take accountability for their role in tackling the crisis. The food industry is responsible for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and almost 60% of the global damage to biodiversity. It is estimated the industry emits 17.3bn tons of carbon dioxide (that’s roughly 19 times more than commercial planes).

The UK’s largest supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Morrisons and Aldi) aren’t shying away from this, and have pledged to reduce carbon emissions, deforestation and food waste packaging significantly within the next decade. However, there are a number of barriers they need to overcome to do so, and embracing technology can offer them a helping hand to defeat these challenges.

Powering large supermarkets with refrigerators, and warehouses with machinery and lighting, is harsh on the environment. Many chains are looking at optimizing store lighting, heating and refrigeration to reduce energy consumption. This year, Tesco claimed it achieved a 55% energy reduction in its operations against its 2015 baseline by using energy and refrigeration more efficiently and adopting 100% renewable electricity across the Tesco Group. It isn’t the only one either, Sainsbury’s opened its new energy-efficient supermarket last month – which is projected to use only half the energy of a normal Sainsbury’s store and 25% less electricity than other supermarkets.

Aldi opened its new ‘eco-concept store’ in Royal Leamington Spa last September. Built using timber fibre insulation, recycled lighting columns and low temperature tarmac, it was designed to reduce carbon emissions from the offset. Concrete was replaced with cement too – improving its ecological credentials further. It is thought the redesign of the buildings structure has also helped reduce the overall energy demand by 57%.

Interestingly, technology is helping support the day-to-day running of supermarkets too. There are a mix of products on the market that allow retailers to adopt more of an ‘automated’ model. This simply means they can manage their stores more efficiently. For example, it is possible to control operations centrally – whether it be lighting, fridges, security, or tills. Tech can monitor and control important factors that keep such things running – including temperature, electricity, water pressure and so on. Not only does this improve energy efficiency, but it also reduces operation costs for retailers.

While introducing a new eco-supermarket is great – one store is simply not enough – the concept needs to be rolled out across the UK – and across various stores. Project management tools can support and speed up this process, making it easier to track real time data and run the project more efficiently. New technologies can support the installation process from the very start – helping supermarkets pull all their data together in one place so they can determine the changes they need to make – while outlining how they’re going to make them. Technology streamlines processes and provides real time data so project managers can manage the installment of new eco-friendly measures easily.

There is no doubt supermarkets are making clear headway in an attempt to become more sustainable. Experts believe we will continue to see eco-stores pop up across the UK in the next few years, however their willingness to invest in new technologies may well determine how quickly this will happen. By using technology, it becomes easier to manage large sustainability-based projects, and ultimately achieve the goals supermarkets have set out. Many organisations are making huge investments in tech and project management tools for that reason. The planet doesn’t have time to wait, the only way to support it – is by speeding up this process to achieve what many have set out to do.

Written By: Harri Vivian

Harri Vivian is a Senior Manager of Regional Marketing (UKI) at Quickbase.

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