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At first blush, the value of a partnership between a leading supermarket chain and a home energy solutions company may seem unclear or even nonexistent, but it actually can have a tremendous impact.
The partnership of my company, Next Step Living, and Stop & Shop New England is expected to help shoppers save more than $1 million in energy costs annually. And that's just one way to quantify the impact of this relationship.
Shared Effort, Shared Goals
In early 2013, Stop & Shop was looking for ways to further the three goals of its Better Neighbor Promise: Care for the environment, support the community and better the lives of the supermarket chain's customers. By teaming with Next Step Living, Stop & Shop has taken measurable strides toward fulfilling that promise.
"Stop & Shop is known for its leadership and environmental stewardship," says Jihad Rizkallah, VP of responsible retailing for Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop New England, which includes 214 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. "One environmental goal of our responsible-retailing commitment is to reduce our company's carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2015, by reducing our consumption of electricity and natural gas, reducing refrigerant leaks, and so on.
"But our commitment doesn't stop with our own operations," continues Rizkallah. "We want to influence the behavior of our employees and show our customers the benefits of saving energy. This way, we enlarge the pool of folks who are educated about -- and committed to -- sustainability initiatives."
Stop & Shop launched a partnership with Next Step Living to help put the supermarket company on a path to achieving that broader sustainability goal.
From Stop & Shop's perspective, implementing the partnership has been straightforward. Store managers work with Next Step Living to schedule appearances of home-energy representatives at information tables in the supermarkets. Stop & Shop customers drop by and learn about the steps they can take to improve their homes' energy efficiency so they can save energy and money while living more sustainably and comfortably.
Next Step Living representatives encourage shoppers to begin with a comprehensive home energy evaluation that, depending on a customer's utility provider, costs little or no money. Conducted by a Next Step Living energy adviser, the evaluation can include the installation of quick fixes like programmable thermostats and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. The energy adviser also makes recommendations for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, from weatherization to high-efficiency ductless mini split systems to solar power systems.
The Impact of Partnership
The Stop & Shop-Next Step Living partnership has generated broad, deep and continuing interest among the supermarket company's customers. More than 25,000 grocery shoppers have learned more about home energy efficiency and sustainability.
That interest has translated into a significant environmental impact and generated savings for Stop & Shop customers. Almost 5,000 completed a home energy evaluation and received various quick fixes that prevent more than 1,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Those quick fixes also will help Stop & Shop customers save more than an estimated $2.2 million on their utility bills over the next five years.
Another 1,100 Stop & Shop customers decided to weatherize their homes, typically with insulation and air sealing, and these improvements will prevent another 1,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over five years, while saving homeowners more than $2 million in energy costs.
Stop & Shop has also encouraged its employees to think about, and act on, sustainability at home. "We brought the Next Step Living folks into our Quincy, Mass., headquarters and had 45 or 50 employees sign up for home energy assessments," says Rizkallah. "People speak highly of our partnership with Next Step Living. Working together with our customers, our actions to save energy are having a great impact."
Educating grocery shoppers about energy efficiency services can be a great recipe for creating value in more ways than one.