Sears Green Leadership Work Receives EPA Recognition

Posted on May 14th, 2012 by

Paul Campbell and Kaitlin Hooper discuss the sustainability work that they do for Sears Holdings.

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Ben Lack What does that mean for Sears to be recognized by the EPA Energy Star program  for your energy efficiency efforts?
Paul Campbell Everything we do, when it comes to recognitions like these, is on behalf of our customers. What this says is that our customers have supported and recognize us a leader in this space because they have fully contributed to the support of the energy star brand through the products and services that they purchase through all of our different personal touch points, whether be in store, by phone, online in home. And it’s because of their passionate commitment in our ability to execute and meet their needs that collaboratively, we’ve been able to achieve this recognition. So whenever we receive something like this the first thing we want to do is turn it around and share it back with our customers and let them know how appreciative we are of their support of us and its recognition.
Ben Lack One of the interesting things that I find with receiving the award is, in this industry sometimes it’s sometimes hard to communicate in engineering based benefits to the common consumer. Your team has some really interesting marketing strategies to communicate those values to your customer base.  I’m curious if you could just share with us a little bit about these programs and what you guys did to help push your initiatives along.
Paul Campbell In my world, we work very hard to establish strategic relationships with various members of the energy efficiency industry, and specifically utility companies and their program administrators. They bring a lot of great ideas to the table, as do we, and then we collaborate and come up with a new messaging, new channels, new touch points, to get customers interested and excited about energy efficiency.The underlying theme for all this is that it’s about saving money and it’s about not wasting energy. There’s that long term benefit about doing good things for the environment. But in today’s economy, people are still very focused on the additional incentives that are associated with the energy efficiency products and services that we’re offering today, and being able to instantaneously start not wasting energy in their own homes.

So, we lead with that messaging and we always include the environmental impact to that as well. The traditional add drops and mailers to the home carry a certain value but what we have found is you really have to leverage multiple channels to bring that message out to the customers and continuously remind them with the importance and the benefit of the energy efficient products and services, so creatively through the tap and the savings that was in partnership with the Cadmus Group and the National Grid. And we use one of our stores as a back drop and then we really leverage our social media channels, all of the partners leverage their social media channels to get that message out and make it as viral as possible. We had some fun with it. Accordingly the stores get very excited because of the opportunity there is to differentiate themselves and bring more draw into their locations and relative to their competitors and they’re going to support 110%. And it’s these kinds of events that certainly bring that to fruition.

Ben Lack Talk to me about what, from a sustainability standpoint, are the top objectives  for the company for this upcoming year.
Paul Campbell From a sustainability perspective I think that the runway for us is very long. We have an opportunity to be a leader in this space, to collaborate with many of the same partners I mentioned in the product and service detail side of things and continue to establish ourselves in a leadership position. The external recognition is very important but it’s also really about walking the talk. So as much as we try and clearly articulate to our customers about helping them live their lives greener and become more energy efficient, we also want to make sure that were doing the things as a corporation, to drive that same level of efficiency.So as we look at our facilities, we look at our packaging, we look at our suppliers, lots of opportunities are there for us to continue to reduce our carbon foot print and do the types of things that are efficient for us. Ultimately that’s going to lead to better productivity from a cost control perspective as well. So the two fit as one and the retail space as we all know, it’s an incredibly competitive environment, so doing these kinds of things more effectively is going to help us become a more efficient company in everything that we do.
Ben Lack While there are many competitors in the retail space that are embracing the idea of becoming sustainable, are there specific projects that your team is working on that might be a little unique from what the generic strategies are from anybody working on?
Paul Campbell Maybe I’ll let Kaitlin answer that as well. I’ll say first and foremost that one of the significant differentiators we have relative to our competitors is the tremendous home services organization that we’ve maintained for decades. And this is the team of in home service technicians, all of our call centers and our home improvement account managers that are spending hours in people’s homes doing energy efficiency assessments. And so they are also, and have now created a new organization within their group around the merging technology, so as they continue to pursue opportunity in the space of plugging electric vehicles and solar installations.The fact that we have this trusted adviser are already established with our customers. The brand still carries stability, trust, and comfort. We recognize that’s it’s an opportunity for us to introduce some of these new alternatives and emerging technologies to our customers in a very informal and trusting way and a lot of that right now is about education and awareness. It’s a lot about what are the opportunities; where the industry is going, what are the trends; what does this mean to you as a home owner; as a industry; or business owner; as such as what are the impacts; what are the choices that you have; what’s the return in your investment?

There’s still lot of questions out there that we’re trying to help answer and we’re trying to let know that we are the trusted advisers. We are the expert that you can turn to, were gonna make sure that were acting on your behalf and educating you as best that we can to make the intelligent choices to help yourself go forward.

Ben Lack Kate what about your group?
Kaitlin Hooper I would say kind of back to what Paul was saying about walking the talk not only do we help our customers make sustainable energy efficient decisions, but we also do that in our own location. So, a couple of unique things that we’ve done to encourage past energy efficiency in our facilities is doing some building competitions. Internally we have some healthy competition and have stores go up against each other to see what store can be the most energy efficient. And we also participate in a similar vain with the EPA National Building Competition. We get couple of our best performers and see how much they can reduce energy.  It’s really a whole house message. Not only do we encourage our customers through this energy consumption but were also doing what we can to be a sustainable company.
Ben Lack The two of you should be getting a lot of credit for this recognition, I’m curious you know, on how the two of you slice and dice the sustainability and energy efficiency responsibilities.
Paul Campbell What’s interesting is about a year ago, we look at the green leadership team. It’s really promoting the external relationships with the energy efficiency industry. Our environmental sustainability team was really on some of an internal look, again that walk the talk. But we found that we were talking to a lot of the same resources whether it was the EPA or the DOE or some of our industry partners. And then we also found that we were trying to leverage the same internal resources.  And so we recognized that there was probably benefit in combining the two into a single team and in fact that come to fruition just the last three weeks. We did combine the two into a single group and we will start to leverage everything that I just mention and were already starting to recognize bringing some of the best practices from both groups into a single set of efficiencies going forward.

We’re really excited about the direction we think that really gives us additional relevance into the industry as we benchmark some of our peers and some of the best in class companies in the space of sustainability and green leadership. We’ve seen this as well. We take it very seriously about longevity, in this relevance, not only internally but externally as well. It has added additional resources into our combined teams as well, so we’re excited about that.

We clearly want this group to continue to grow, be a destination for other additional internal resources as we continue to be more relevant and be more more engaged from a green leadership perspective. We operate at an individual business unit level and sustainability more on a global level. We now elevated green leadership to a global level so we’ll have the opportunity to influence across the entire corporation versus each individual businesses at the time. We’re really excited about being able to translate and build scale around a lot of the projects and initiatives that we’ve been working on.

Ben Lack I want to close by asking the two of you why are you doing what you’re doing? Why does this industry interest you and why you chose to spend your time working on the types of projects that you work on in Sears Holdings?
Kaitlin Hooper I think it’s becoming more and more relevant to the customer that companies are doing their social responsibilities role. They’re doing what they can not only to provide products to people but to do that in a social responsible way. Personally, it’s something that I’m very passionate about and I love working towards helping as each to do that. It’s important that we not only empower our customers but we’re also, back again to the message of walking the talk and doing what we can, to be environmental stewards.
Paul Campbell The industry, whether its sustainability or green leadership right now is so vibrant and so dynamic. There is so many, there is such a high level of interest, you can’t turn a newspaper ad or go on a website and look at a story that doesn’t talk about something with respect to sustainability or green today. It’s becoming such a dominant industry in overall initiative.

It’s really a lot of fun to be able to be a part of an industry in a time when it’s still evolving and it’s still developing. And it’s an opportunity for us to put our own personal signatures and which way this is gonna go. Obviously working for Sears Holdings, they had the confidence in us to make sure that we steer them in the right direction. But it’s our own passion for this as well that really keeps us motivated and keeps us moving forward.


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