Sustainability for retail businesses

Where healthy profits are key to any business, making savings on energy expenditure should not be disregarded. This should be an important consideration for any size of retail operation, where lighting, heating, ventilation and refrigeration all add hugely to energy costs.

Traditional housekeeping practices adopted over the years have heightened awareness of the importance of switching off appliances and regular maintenance. However, further progress can be made by investing in new modern energy management systems and much more efficient modern equipment. By reviewing all aspects of energy usage, both cost savings and environmental benefits can be achieved.


There are several factors to consider that can help reduce energy usage where expensive refrigeration is needed.

  1. Review operating practices – Avoid overstocking as this can put pressure on equipment and temperature settings. Always ensure that refrigerator doors, are fitted and closed and thermal blinds are pulled down out of trading hours.
  2. Maintenance – Is a robust maintenance programme in place? This should check the optimum working of condensers and evaporators and should also include the routine checking of door seals.
  3. Temperature – It is hugely important that food safety is maintained but it is worth considering if the temperature setting can be reduced slightly, as a small increase of 1c can reduce energy consumption by 2 to 4% (Carbon Trust).
  4. Capital investment – As technology is constantly being upgraded, it may be wise to invest in more modern efficient equipment, to make savings in the long term.

Where refrigeration costs in smaller food retailers can account for 50% of electricity costs adopting the changes above, can realise savings in costs and consumption. (Carbon Trust).


Retailers always consider lighting design for any new or refurbished unit in order to create the right image to keep ahead of competitors. It’s also important to control costs to maximise profits which can be achieved by adopting a few best practices.

  1. Inform your staff – Re-educate your teams on energy usage and clearly label switches to ensure only the appropriate lights are in use. You may also want to engage your people in energy saving efforts by offering staff incentives if targets are met.
  2. Maintenance –  Robust maintenance programmes should be in place to keep on top of the cleaning of lights, lamp replacement and checking of timer settings. A drop of 35% in efficiency can be accredited to having a poor maintenance routine.

By changing to energy saving lamps such as T5 Fluorescent, the initial capital expenditure can be offset against the expected long term savings of up to 50%.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to fit occupancy sensor fittings in those areas sporadically used such as training and staff rooms, warehouse and stock areas and even customer fitting rooms.


Adopting simple practices can reduce hearing costs substantially possibly by up to a third, so vital where it accounts for 40% of energy used retail premises.

  1. Temperature setting – An ideal temperature in Winter within a retail environment is 19C, as customers are likely to be wearing warmer clothing. It’s worth noting that, where temperatures are above this, a small reduction of 1C can cut consumption by 8%. (Carbon Trust)
  2. Keep the heat in – Automatic or revolving doors, although initially expensive, can greatly help in keeping heat in, whilst allowing easy access for the customer. An alternative or even helpful addition is a draught lobby.
  3. Timing – Are your timings appropriate for your business? Energy operating hours should be checked to ensure they are in line with trading hours and seasonal changes. It is worth considering using timers to switch off heating and air conditioning before your shop closes, to reduce consumption.