"Eco-friendly", "sustainable" and "low carbon dioxide" are not just buzz words for international enterprises like French retailer Carrefour. They are part of their most ambitious and concrete targets for the future.
Thousands of lights, non-stop refrigeration facilities and large compounds of air conditioners make for a nice shopping environment, but they are also very energy-consuming.
In a bid to become more eco-friendly, big enterprises such as Carrefour and Wal-Mart are now implementing sophisticated technology to decrease that consumption.
Even as Carrefour plans to open 20-25 new stores in China, its focus will be on energy saving and environmental protection.
Claudio Gouveia, vice-president, Carrefour China, said: "As a responsible corporate citizen, environmental protection has become one of most significant obligations for Carrefour, not only in China but in outlets across the world."
Carrefour will carry out its plans aimed at energy saving, at its new-constructed outlets in China. The energy consumption at these outlets will be 20 percent lower than old ones. Existing outlets will try to reduce 15 percent of their energy consumption after renovation and reconstruction.
In 2008, the company invested over 200 million yuan in renovation and reconstruction of existing stores to make them more energy efficient and all 136 Carrefour stores in China adhere to those standards.
Carrefour's outlet in Beijing's Wangjing area, which opened last January, is one of the "green outlets".
"The whole store adopts energy-saving notions and various advanced technologies, from a light bulb to air conditioner system," said Xu Jun, maintenance manager of Carrefour's Wangjing store.
The office area is installed with inductive switches, lights and air conditioners which will automatically shut down 10 minutes after all people leave the room, fluorescent lights at fresh food areas will be removed to eliminate the heat they generate, and all air conditioners in the store are installed with frequency converters, so that the cooling process and power usage automatically adjusts itself to room temperature.
Xu also said the ventilation system uses outside cold air as much as possible, instead of excessively using air conditioner units.
Carrefour has also reduced the size of its office and non-commercial areas to 600 sq m from the initial 1,000 sq m. This is to save space and increase energy efficiency.
The Wangjing store is aiming at reducing its annual electricity consumption by around 20 percent, which equals 1 million kWh of electricity. Its water consumption will also be cut by 30 percent or 50,000 cu m.
Another global retailing giant Wal-Mart opened its first energy-efficient store in Beijing's Wangjing area last October.
Wal-Mart has said that compared to a typical store in 2005, its new outlet will consume 23 percent less electricity and 17 percent less water annually.
Ron Virta, vice-president of the merchandise development of Wal-Mart China, previously said that the company's existing stores will also be fitted with more sustainable equipment.
Starting last November, Wal-Mart imposed higher environmental and social standards on its 20,000 suppliers in China in a bid to build a more environmentally and socially responsible global supply chain.
Under the new supplier agreement, factories will be asked to certify compliance with local laws and regulations on air emissions, waste water discharges, and management of toxic substances and hazardous waste disposal.
Wal-Mart China has said that it will cooperate with the environmental certification center under Ministry of Environmental Protection on drafting green store standards.
The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing, in December 2008.
The Chinese government has vowed to reduce the country's energy consumption by 20 percent per 1,000 yuan of GDP from what it was in 2005 during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10).
Wu Binhua, an official with the Ministry of Commerce, previously said that the energy consumption of large department stores and supermarkets were two to three times more than developed countries.
According to China Chain Store and Franchise Association statistics for 2006, electricity consumption of the retailing industry, accounted for 1.2 percent of the country's total electricity output of 2,834.4 kWh.
In 2007, the Ministry of Commerce published a circular of energy-saving in the retail industry. It required supermarkets, department stores and franchisee stores covering an area of over 10,000 sq m, to take the lead in energy conservation and emission reduction.
(China Daily May 11, 2009)