In 2017, the German Retail Association (HDE) launched the Klimaschutzoffensive (climate protection offensive) – an initiative aimed at empowering small to medium-sized retailers to become more climate friendly and, in turn, reduce the environmental impact of the retail trade at large.
Since its establishment, the initiative has proven to be a huge success, providing thousands of businesses across Germany with the tools needed to reduce their carbon footprint, and it has also spawned a number of additional projects, such as HDE-Adapt, launched in January 2023, which offers practical training solutions for retailers to adapt to climate change.
At the recent EuroCommerce 30th-anniversary event in Brussels, ESM had the chance to sit down with Patrick Schütz, public relations manager for the Klimaschutzoffensive, to talk about the successes achieved to date, and what’s next on the agenda for the initiative.
ESM: Tell us about how the Klimaschutzoffensive came together.
Patrick Schütz: The idea was to provide information to German retailers on how to reduce their carbon emissions. This project is funded by the German Ministry for Economic and Climate Affairs.
Over the past six years, the focus has been on providing an information campaign for the retail sector in Germany, particularly for small and mid-sized retailers.
So this doesn’t apply to major retailers like REWE, Aldi, Lidl, etc.?
These companies have their own sustainability departments, with big budgets, whereas we are mostly focusing on SMEs. These are businesses that want to do something, but they don’t have the time, or the funds.
We would imagine that a lot of SMEs don’t know where to start – or how they can fit this into their busy schedules.
I think, at the beginning, there was a growing consciousness in society about climate change, and this awareness extended to the retail sector as well, but then, in 2022, energy prices started to rise. Once something becomes more expensive, it naturally becomes more important to pay attention to.
For small-store owners – even if you don’t own the space and are renting it – there are several steps you can take. One important step is to switch to LED lighting. Additionally, checking your heating system, ventilation system, and, if you sell food, checking the cooling system and fridges are essential.
It’s not just about pointing out the big changes – even the small details matter. By addressing all these aspects and making improvements, you can potentially reduce your energy consumption by around 20%.
So it’s not the case that you are coming to them and saying, ‘You should instal solar panels, but, by the way, it’s going to cost you €50,000?’ You are offering more practical, day-to-day advice.
Exactly – because, for example, if it comes to solar panels, you could only do that if you own the building. The landlord has got to invest the money, but his electricity costs won’t go down – only the retailer’s costs will go down – so why would the landlord invest?
So, we’re trying to bring all these groups together – retailers, landlords, third-party providers, lawyers, energy consultants. We have a number of live events and online events where experts get to inform retailers as to why energy prices are currently high and discuss the potential implications, including where prices are going to land in the near future – in the next six months, for example.
We consider ourselves not only an information campaign, but also a network. At our events, retailers have the opportunity to share ideas and exchange knowledge. We actively encourage retailers to invite others to join these events.
By bringing these businesses together, they can learn from each other, but also develop collaborations or team up on energy-saving initiatives?
We have already accomplished a lot in terms of showcasing successful outcomes as best practices. For instance, if there is a fashion store owner who has made investments in various aspects – like lighting, ventilation systems – and transitioning to selling more sustainable products, we highlight their achievements. We invite these best-practice individuals to our events to present and share their experiences.
Some retailers might obtain credit or funding to support these investments, while others might finance it independently. During the events, they present how they did that, as well as actual numbers and data.
Some initiatives may take several years to pay off, however, once that point is reached, you start to save a lot of money.
In other words, transparency is a key part of the Klimaschutzoffensive – creating an environment where information is shared in a non-competitive way, for the benefit of all?
On our website, we provide several tools to assist retailers in their sustainability efforts. One of these tools is the Invest-Check tool – users can input relevant information, such as their sector, the square footage of their store, and their energy consumption. The tool then generates a comparison to determine how their energy usage compares to others in the same sector.
Retailers can then assess whether their energy consumption is higher or lower than the average for their industry. This information allows them to evaluate their energy efficiency and identify areas for potential improvement. It enables retailers to understand their position, relative to other businesses, and take appropriate steps to optimise their energy usage.
Another part of our website shows you the addresses of energy consultants for each federal state in Germany. It also provides information on all the possible funds available in Germany, both on a federal and local level. There are numerous funds that businesses can apply for.
To learn more about the HDE’s Klimaschutzoffensive, visit www.hde-klimaschutzoffensive.de.