Corporate Responsibility

Retail Industry Leaders Association unveils new energy management resources for retailers

Posted by: Will Teichman Will Teichman
on May 9, 2014

As any reader of our blog knows, Kimco is focused on promoting sustainability among our retail tenants, whether it’s through developing tailored energy management tips for retailers, partnering with Energy Star to promote tenant benchmarking and efficiency, or investing in research with EDF Climate Corps to better understand the barriers to tenant sustainability.

Back in 2011, Kimco began collaborating with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) to engage in national tenant and landlord discussions focused on advancing retail sustainability.  This collaboration has produced numerous tools and pilot demonstration projects, and has served to establish a forum for dialogues between landlords and tenants specifically focused on shopping center sustainability.

In a related but separate effort, RILA recently announced the creation of a new program focused on retail tenant energy management.  We read this news with interest, and reached out to representatives from the organization to learn more about this new effort.

Below is a summary of our conversation with Adam Siegel, Vice President, Sustainability and Retail Operations, and Erin Hiatt, Coordinator, Sustainability and Retail Operations, a series of questions about about RILA’s new Retail Energy Management Maturity Matrix, a tool that helps retailers optimize their existing energy management programs. It provides a baseline for retail energy managers to measure their existing programs, identifies opportunities for growth, and provides a roadmap to improve energy processes. Read on to find out more about this retailer resource.

As an introduction, tell us a little about RILA and your role with the organization.

Adam Siegel, Vice President, Sustainability and Retail Operations, RILA

Adam Siegel, Vice President, Sustainability and Retail Operations, RILA

Siegel: RILA is the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade association for America’s leading retailers. We represent all retailer types and formats from mall retail to grocery to large format, and the association engages with them around a number of government and operational issues.

I have been RILA’s Vice President of Sustainability and Retail Operations for nearly four years. In that role, I lead RILA’s Retail Sustainability Initiative, a structure that helps our members share practices. It’s our innovative members that really lead — I’m constantly impressed by their programs. One of our newest engagement areas is our Retail Energy Management Program.

Hiatt: I’ve been RILA’s Coordinator of Sustainability and Retail Operations for nearly two years and am helping to lead the Retail Energy Management Program.

Erin Hiatt, Coordinator, Sustainability and Retail Operations

Erin Hiatt, Coordinator, Sustainability and Retail Operations

Tell me more about the Retail Energy Management Program. What is the purpose of the program, and what was your motivation for creating it?

Hiatt: The program is intended to help retailers overcome barriers to enhanced energy performance across their building portfolios. Retailers have a significant opportunity to reduce the energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions of their vast portfolios, to the benefit of both their companies and the environment.

We started the program because our members all recognize the opportunity for cost and environmental savings in energy management, and they needed an avenue to learn from their peers.

We structured the program around two main work streams so that everyone finds value and so that we can drive the industry in mainstreaming leading practices and developing next practices. That way we can leverage our natural strengths as a trade association to help participants both benchmark the industry-leading processes deployed by many of their peers and also to pilot demonstrations of new ones. The pilots might be to test a technology, system, or collaboration — anything that enhances their energy savings capabilities. In all cases, we are seeking projects with the potential to scale across the industry. Our year’s work is also going to inform an energy management track at RILA’s annual Retail Sustainability Conference.

Part of the launch involved releasing a new tool — the Retail Energy Management Maturity Matrix. Can you explain who the intended audience is for the tool, and how they can use it to better manage energy use in the retail setting?

Hiatt: We created the tool for a retail audience in order to help them benchmark their energy programs against their peers. This is a great tool to identify the strength and maturity of your energy management program and identify opportunities for improvement.

In parallel, we launched a survey that aligns with the Maturity Matrix so that we can gather data on the strength of the industry overall. This will help us identify opportunities for industry-wide improvement and track progress over the coming years.

Siegel: There are others that can benefit from the Maturity Matrix as well. First and foremost are retail property owners and operators, as this tool will help them to identify the operational and technical issues most important to their tenants. Energy vendors and nonprofits with a focus on energy, and collaborative work groups can also benefit from the framework that the Maturity Matrix lays out.

What other organizations and/or individuals collaborated with RILA to create this new tool?  

Siegel: While RILA has been working with its members on energy-related issues for some time now, we recognize that there’s a lot of expertise outside of the industry to tap. So while it was mainly developed with input from retailers, we sought input from the Department Of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and energy vendors. Schneider Electric, the program’s sponsor, has significant retail expertise and was a huge help. I would also like to thank Wipro, the program’s analytics partner.

Hiatt: We also really wanted to avoid reinventing the wheel. We checked out tools like the ISO 50001, EPA’s Energy Management Guidelines, and Environmental Defense Fund’s Virtuous Cycle of Strategic Energy Management. They were all critical in informing the development of the Maturity Matrix, and also confirmed the need for a retail-specific tool.

Our longer-term vision is to create a resource library organized around the same dimensions as the Maturity Matrix. In doing that, I hope we can organize and filter the great resources that already exist to help retailers with developing their energy programs so that it will be easy to find exactly what will help them most.

Why is the issue of energy consumption, and more broadly, sustainability, a priority for your member companies? Are they primarily focused on the impacts of their physical stores, or are retailers also focused on sustainability in other aspects of their businesses?

Siegel: Our companies care about energy use and sustainability more broadly because it matters for their companies. Erin’s and my job wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our focus on sustainability. RILA’s CEO-led board raised this as a priority for RILA more than seven years ago.

Of course, sustainability programs target the operational efficiency of retailers’ physical assets, like their stores, distribution centers, and fleets. But more and more, retailers are also reaching into their supply chain and identifying opportunities to work with suppliers to make and source greener products. This poses a huge opportunity for cost savings, new revenues, new markets, brand loyalty, and more.

Together with the ICSC, you’ve played a role in creating a landlord-tenant working group, of which Kimco has been a participant. Can you talk about any positive developments that have come out of these dialogues?

Siegel: Overall, it has been a positive exercise. We have built a strong community of retail brands and landlords who want to learn about one another. When we first started this working group with ICSC three years ago, both retailers and landlords were citing each other as major barriers to improving sustainability performance at stores. Now they know the issues that each face in implementing certain programs and can be more strategic with their engagements. I think those dialogues will continue to facilitate great pilot programs, like Kimco’s Westlake Shopping Center project in Daly City, California. We’ll leverage that group in the future and would love to see more projects like Kimco’s Westlake arise out of the new energy management program. We’re always open to new ideas!

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