Coles continues roll-out of green supermarkets

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 5th August 2008

Coles store design

Coles is among the first retailers in Australia to implement a natural refrigerant system in its new Ropes Crossing store, opening this September. The system will eliminate up to 700 tonnes from the store’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The Ropes Crossing development was completed with the assistance of the Green Cooling Council, a not-for-profit organisation founded by members and suppliers of the refrigeration industry. The Green Cooling Council (formerly the NRTB) has been working with Australian supermarket operators to update their refrigeration systems following receipt of a $2 million Federal Government grant in October 2006 (over the course of four years). The grant, which comes under the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program, was given to evaluate the benefits of new technologies to industry and assist supermarkets.

With the issue of global warming so prominent the need to update refrigeration has become paramount given that approximately half of the emissions from supermarket outlets are attributed to refrigeration systems. In fact, global warming gases from most refrigeration systems currently in operation leak at a rate of 23%, according to the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Guidelines.

The new Coles system uses ammonia and carbon dioxide as the refrigerant gases – both natural gases – instead of synthetic chemicals, which means that if any leakages occur the global warming potential will be dramatically reduced.

As one of the first Australian stores to use this technology, Coles Ropes Crossing will provide a much-needed training ground for a new wave of refrigeration technicians in an evolving TAFE industry training course.

The Ropes Crossing outlet represents the retailer’s fifth ‘Environmental Concept Store’. These stores are used as testing grounds for environmental initiatives, while appearing the same to consumers.

The new store also includes other environmental improvements, such as: night blinds on refrigeration cases to reduce energy use during non-trading periods; and low-energy LED lighting in freezer cases, including freezer aisle motion sensors to turn lights off when there are no shoppers around.

Coles has made a number of changes and refinements to its stores over recent years that have led to significant energy savings, including reductions in energy used by store lights and refrigeration by 40 per cent and 30 per cent respectively since 1985.

Ropes Crossing supermarket refrigeration

Brent Hoare, from the Green Cooling Council, recently informed Australian Food News that he was thrilled about the prospect of reducing the global warming impact of Australian supermarkets. “By shifting from HFC refrigeration the supermarkets are cutting, by one-quarter, the carbon footprint of their stores,” Mr Hoare said. “This is a new course for the industry.”

Woolworths and some independent supermarkets have, like Coles, begun embracing new refrigeration technology and the interest from supermarkets has led to a renewed focus by many refrigeration producers to improve their systems. “The catalytic effect on industry has been profound,” Mr Hoare concluded.

The importance of corporate sustainability has been heightened following recent studies that have discovered consumers are demanding retailers (and manufacturers) to improve their sustainability. A recent Food Marketing Institute report established sustainable shopping as an emerging desire of consumers by finding that 61 per cent of US consumers deem it “very important” or “somewhat important” that retailers have a recycling and sustainability program. Similarly, research from international food and grocery expert, IGD, has revealed that ethical food shopping is now mainstream in Europe as consumers base their purchase decisions on a growing number of factors.

“Until recently, ethical food shoppers were seen as niche,” Chief Executive Joanne Denney-Finch told IGD’s Global Retailing conference last month. “Now as many as seven out of ten Europeans we surveyed buy ethically at least some of the time, and a quarter are dedicated shoppers who consider two or more ethical factors when shopping.”

Green stores, such as the Ropes Crossing outlet, are consequently likely to become more prevalent, especially in the wake of the Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS is set to place extra demands on supermarket owners to reduce emissions and will offer greater incentives for retailers to invest in new refrigeration systems.

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