Posted in GreenBiz
April 22, 2022

New sustainability initiatives from URW reflect consumer desires to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle


This article is sponsored by URW

There is no doubt we have entered the “decade for action” on climate change. 

More than ever before, forward-thinking companies are taking up the mantle of embedding environmentally responsible practices into every aspect of their organizational DNA and corporate culture — investing in solutions that reduce harmful emissions and operationalize more sustainable ways of living and working. 

A spring customer survey from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), one of the largest global developers and operators of premier shopping centers and lifestyle destinations, polled nearly 6,500 Westfield shoppers in the U.S. on their attitudes toward a range of sustainability initiatives, along with how eco-friendliness factors into their rationale and shopping preferences. 

A full 90 percent of customers polled in the survey indicated a willingness to pay some premium on items and experiences that satisfy their eco-conscious criteria. Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to pay 25 percent or above for an item than Gen X or Boomers. 

When choosing where to shop or what to buy, eight in 10 (83 percent) of Westfield shoppers say it’s important that goods are sustainably produced or environmentally friendly with significant percentages specifically interested in reducing waste (61 percent), purchasing local products (53 percent), and sourcing ethical products (48 percent).

The demand from customers for more sustainable dining options is especially pronounced. Whether it’s sustainable packaging, farm-to-table restaurants, innovations to reduce food waste or on-site composting points, 75 percent of Westfield shoppers expressed a preference toward eco-consciousness in food and dining, with 37 percent picking the reduction of food waste as their top environmental priority. 

Similarly, 40 percent of survey respondents relayed that their top priority is sustainably sourced food. Westfield shopping centers already feature a growing number of like-minded restaurants, including Bamboo Sushi, the world’s first certified sustainable sushi restaurant at Westfield Valley Fair in Silicon Valley — as well as Pacific Catch at Westfield UTC in San Diego — lauded for its partnerships with Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, the James Beard Foundation’s “Smart Catch” program and the Surfrider Foundation.

The trends emerging from the survey align with URW’s broader commitments to environmental sustainability as well. The company’s Better Places 2030 strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 50 percent by 2030 also includes mandates to send zero waste to landfill and integrate circular economy design solutions by 2025.  

To reach our emission reduction targets, URW looks at all aspects of our business operations through a sustainability lens —including waste management, water conservation and LED lighting systems. While these investments require more capital at the outset, their long-term payoff results in lower operating costs. Like many green initiatives, these choices aren’t just sustainable for the planet, but for the company’s financial health. That’s why URW’s most recent eco-friendly initiatives include:

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  1. The installation of shopping center solar panels to provide clean green power for retailers and customers. In fact, 100 percent of Westfield’s U.S. malls energy use is emission-free thanks to investments in on-site solar energy and purchasing green power. For these efforts, URW was one of only four organizations nationwide to receive the prestigious “Excellence in Green Power Use” award in 2020 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  
  2. The rollout of Electrify America electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the company’s U.S. shopping center portfolio featuring ultra-fast chargers within an innovative solar canopy that reduces reliance on local electrical grids. These stations provide Westfield guests access to state-of-the-art charging technology, including power levels of up to 150 and 350 kilowatts (allowing capable EVs to add up to 20 miles of range per minute). 
  3. A partnership pairing the Westfield UTC shopping center in San Diego with A.B. Jones & Co., a local vermiculture social venture that converts organic waste from landfills into nutrient-rich fertilizer shared with farms throughout San Diego County.
  4. An affiliation between Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Maryland and the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reduce food waste and recycle food scraps from the shopping center’s 40-plus restaurants and eateries. The collected food scraps are mixed with yard trim materials to create a product called Leafgro Gold, a premium quality soil amendment used to improve soil and plant health. 

Clearly there is a demand from consumers — and willingness to pay a premium — for sustainable brands, products and services. Retailers, restaurants and shopping centers able to effectively tap into this ethos and give their customers more ways to engage and participate in the movement toward responsible consumption will be able to make a real difference for future generations.

April 22, 2022 at 01:15PM

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