Taras Verkhoglyad
Sales Development Representative, Arloid Automation

Carbon Emissions & Retail: The Carbon Footprint of Shopping Malls

Place is the business – for shopping malls at least. With e-commerce drawing more and more customers away from physical stores, enhancing the value of the physical shopping experience is a key challenge. And yet, people also want sustainable experiences. With retail accounting for nearly half the total value of commercial property in the UK, it is the largest energy consumer amongst non-domestic building stock (source). If shopping malls are going to survive, they need to reinvent themselves – and fast.

The Retail Industry & Carbon

For many, retail and sustainability are antithetical concepts. After all, the desire for ‘new’ is the fuel that drives consumerism, and this inevitably has a significant environmental impact. And, with UK retail alone contributing approximately 215 million tonnes of CO2 through the whole lifecycle footprint of goods sold, carbon and retail appear inextricably linked. In fact, retail is estimated to be one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions – releasing 80% more than all road transport in the UK (source).

These emissions are generated by every aspect of the supply chain. There are upstream sources like factories, logistics, and the retail outlets themselves, as well as downstream sources like consumer transport, appliance use, and waste. From plastic packaging to the fuel needed to transport the products to the stores – the entire mechanism of the industry hinges on carbon.

The problem becomes ever more complicated when it comes to shopping malls. Here, the customer experience is of paramount importance – encouraging footfall and dissuading people from shopping only in their living rooms. However, shopping malls are large buildings with varying levels of occupancy, making them hard to operate efficiently. Here, the carbon emissions of HVAC systems represent a significant proportion of the total figure.

Simply put, promoting physical shopping relies on optimising place and its conditions through heating, air conditioning, lighting, and music – and that optimisation often requires large amounts of carbon-derived energy. But energy efficiency and the customer experience don’t have to be at odds – discover our innovative AI solution to utilities optimisation.

Reducing Retail Emissions

The solution to the retail industry’s carbon crisis is never going to be simple. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol separates emissions into 3 categories called scopes. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are produced directly by retail businesses through operations and indirectly through energy use. Scope 3 emissions are other sources across the supply chain – emissions which are much harder to control.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) provides businesses in the UK industry with 5 pathways for action – but these pathways are equally applicable for international markets.

  1. Making carbon emissions data central to business decisions.
  2. Operating energy efficient physical outlets, powered by renewables.
  3. Transitioning to low or lower carbon logistics.
  4. Sourcing products and materials sustainably.
  5. Raising awareness for sustainability amongst employees and customers.

As we’ve touched on, addressing the impact of building utilities is vital. HVAC systems programmed using manual scheduling or legacy data are never going to provide the efficiency required by the BRC. Beyond this, retail businesses need to look across their entire supply chain to drive improvements.

From redesigning packaging to banning plastic bags to using electric or low carbon vehicles to bettering recycling company-wide – there is much to be done! Even something as seemingly innocent as the humble receipt has an impact. 11.2 billion receipts are printed in the UK each year, and most of this is done using thermal paper which can’t be recycled because it releases bisphenol A – an incredibly harmful chemical. Make your retailers email them instead!

Read our advice for reducing shopping mall HVAC emissions here >

The Future of Sustainable Shopping Malls

We’ve discussed the problems, and the possible solutions – but what does the future look like for shopping malls? Combatting the challenge of online shopping as well as meeting carbon commitments is not easy, but shopping malls are driving forces in the economy, and are often central hubs within communities. To that end, they have a pivotal role to play – leading the way to net zero and total decarbonisation.

To drag consumers away from screens, many shopping malls are reinventing themselves as lifestyle centres, providing a greater diversity of attraction. Going to a shopping mall in the future will not just be about buying products, but about a host of other, auxiliary experiences.

But malls of the future won’t just be diverse; they’ll also need to be green. With 44% of consumers globally making decisions where to shop based on a business’ sustainability commitments, the moral obligation to protect the planet has turned into a commercial imperative.

However, progress is being made. Many retail businesses are implementing environmental initiatives across their organisations. In fact, retailers have reduced carbon emissions by 45% since 2005 – a promising result considering the target was only a 25%! Clearly, so long as action is taken, the future of retail is bright.

Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Retail Building with AI

Here at Arloid, we know decarbonisation depends on reducing energy demand. To that end, we’ve helped shopping malls and retail businesses in the UK and across the globe optimise their HVAC systems with cutting-edge AI technology. With zero capital expenditure and 30% emission reductions possible after only 60 days, going green has never been simpler.

Get in touch to find out more.

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