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Green retail: saving the planet can save on costs

No doubt about it: the economic downturn has caused consumers to cut back on spending. The retail industry is looking for new and innovative ways to cut costs even while encouraging consumers to increase the frequency and the size of their purchases. There's one move that has proven effective in both reducing costs and driving consumer demand: going green.

Green retail delivers business sustainability. It's a way to demonstrate corporate social responsibility by reducing the environmental impact of an enterprise while simultaneously delivering significant financial benefits. In short, what began as an initiative to improve our planet's health has evolved into a means of boosting profit margins. These efforts can offer significant benefits to businesses by:

  • Reducing the amount of energy used by data centers and point of sale (POS) terminals, lowering carbon emissions and slashing operating costs.
  • Optimizing the supply chain, which helps reduce waste, increase flexibility and tighten control of product delivery and demand-response time.
  • Migrating to green infrastructure, which provides an opportunity to re-evaluate operations for improved efficiency and to help locate surplus expenses.
  • Implementing green operations that can improve compliance with government regulations—now and in the future.

25% of consumers would switch brands if given a more ethical alternative. Source: Harvard Business Review, '20 Counter-Cunture Breakthroughs

All of these advantages can produce a business that’s leaner, stronger and more competitive—without lowering prices. Going green can do wonders for a company’s brand. In fact, even as they seek to limit their spending, consumers continue to seek out brands and products that reflect their social concerns. Clearly, environmentalism remains a major priority. As evidence, given the choice between similar products, many customers will choose—and even pay a premium for—the one that is quantifiably better for the environment.

Chart: Corporate social responsibility value curve. Greater returns can be realized as companies move from left to right up the value curve, integrating corporate social responsibility into core business strategies.

From the ground up: how to start

Green retail starts with development of a green infrastructure. The IT infrastructure used to support a retail company can have large energy demands. A green retail solution can instrument, manage and optimize across many types of infrastructure—including green IT, data centers, facilities and building management systems.

An infrastructure audit can help finds ways to implement sustainable, cost-efficient solutions and opportunities for greener sourcing, manufacturing and product distribution. Interconnected communication technology enables information sharing and helps strengthen relationships with employees, consumers and communities. In this sense, sustainability refers not only to the environment, but to the long-term vitality of your company.

IBM tools and processes can help you meet your green retail goals in key areas:

Corporate strategy and brand
Corporate social responsibility roadmaps, worldwide asset recovery services that reuse, remarket and recycle computers; and strategic carbon management that can analyze the carbon footprint and plan a response.

IBM SurePOS and IBM AnyPlace™ Kiosk have energy-efficient processors, power management and recyclable components.

Supply chain
Our Carbon Tradeoff Modeler can analyze and manage supply chain climate impact; our Green Supply Network Optimization Workbench can help assess and optimize the carbon footprint associated with supply network facilities.

Enterprise data center
Server and storage solutions that include systems management, virtualization and IT infrastructure consolidation, liquid cooling and other energy-efficient technologies that can help reduce energy consumption by as much as 40 percent.

IBM BladeCenter® S
Simplifies technology management for retail stores, including servers, POS terminals and phone systems, while lowering energy costs as much as 35 percent.

IBM Global Business Services offerings include Green Strategy Development, a blueprint for meeting corporate social responsibly and green operations goals, and IBM Environmental Product Lifecycle Management for analyzing product life cycles to implement environmentally friendly design from planning to asset disposal.