Giant Strides for the Environment

by Nate Hunter

Giant Eagle maintains an impressive legacy of environmental sustainability and efficient processes in facility management.

In 2004, a Giant Eagle supermarket opened in Brunswick, Ohio. Far from just another grocery store, this 80,000-square-foot building in northeastern Ohio became the very first LEED-certified supermarket in the U.S. — but more importantly, the Brunswick store kicked off 6 subsequent years (and counting) of dedication to environmental responsibility by Giant Eagle, Inc., which is currently celebrating its most recent LEED Silver certification at a store near Pittsburgh. The motivation behind all of “green” ambition is simply this: doing the right thing — for the community and the environment.

“One of the main things that I’m proud of is this company does whatever we can to be contributing members of the communities we serve,” says Dan Donovan, who works in corporate communications for Giant Eagle. “A major goal of our sustainability efforts is to, quite simply, do the right thing and improve those communities is every way possible. We improve them with how we serve our customers, both with our offerings and our services, and I think this is just another way that we do that.”

Earlier this year, Giant Eagle, Inc. received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification for the Giant Eagle supermarket and GetGo convenience store and fuel station in Township of Pine, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. The company now boasts six LEED-certified stores: four supermarkets and two fuel stations/convenience stores in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

According to Kevin Shelton, Giant Eagle’s vice president of store planning, equipment buying, engineering and construction, the LEED-certified stores underscore Giant Eagle’s commitment to environmental responsibility. “It is a continuation of our work thus far, and a step toward future initiatives,” he says.

The LEED Silver-certified Township of Pine store features numerous sustainable features, including 115 skylights integrated with electrical lights; low-VOC adhesives, paints, carpeting and wood products; Green Seal-approved cleaning products; landscaping with drought-tolerant vegetation that requires no irrigation; store electricity that is offset by green energy sources; a highly reflective white roof for greater energy efficiency and less heat absorption; no-ozone depleting refrigerants in refrigeration and cooling systems; and recycled building materials. Additionally, the store captures cardboard, plastic film, bottles, cans, paper, used cooking oils and proteins for recycling on an ongoing basis.

“While we love doing it because it’s the right thing to do, in many cases it also makes good business sense and has a very good ROI,” Donovan adds.

Jeff Willoughby, Giant Eagle’s director of facility management, agrees. “There are some aspects where being green can be expensive,” he concedes. “However, using salt instead of calcium chloride, for example, actually saved us money in the long run when melting snow and ice. Going with fewer grass cuttings has saved us money as well. Not only are we not paying for a service, we are lowering our carbon footprint and our emissions.”

Most recently, in September of this year, Giant Eagle continued to garner praise from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The retailer received the EPA’s prestigious Montreal Protocol Award and three GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration awards — continuing to build upon its distinction as an ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award recipient as recognized by the EPA.

Maintaining Efficient Facilities
When Giant Eagle, Inc. isn’t busy collecting environmental accolades, it is efficiently maintaining the daily operations of 228 supermarkets and 159 GetGo fuel stations and convenience stores. Currently the retailer has stores in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

The facility management department, which reports to the real estate team, is structured in two parts: regional facilities management and maintenance services. The regional facilities management group has nine regional facility managers, all assigned to oversee a regional portfolio of stores, and all report to Willoughby. The maintenance services side encompasses an internal call center, an in-house maintenance technician and a carpenter.

DSC_1575“We do some work in-house,” Willoughby says. “The advantage, Number 1, is cost and Number 2, is being able to control who goes where, when they’re going to there, and how long they’re at a certain job.”

Giant Eagle utilizes a web-based asset management system from Verisae to track maintenance calls from the stores. The store manager is able to enter the work order request directly into the Verisae system, and once submitted, the request goes to Giant Eagle’s internal call center. The internal call center then dispatches the work order request to the internal maintenance technician or to an external vendor. The technician or vendor then has the ability to “clock in” to the Verisae system after they arrive at the site and, upon completion of the work, they can reenter the system to log out. Finally, the invoice is submitted back to the facilities management department for payment.

Outside vendors — a mixture of national and local service providers — do play a key role in Giant Eagle’s facilities maintenance. “We spend a large amount of money every year on floor care, for example,” Willoughby says. “So for some of the larger services like that, we chose to go with national service providers to assist my team in the management of that service.”

Giant Eagle uses Allied National Services and Diversified Maintenance for its environmentally-conscious floor care program, which includes the use of neutral cleaners. For snow removal services, Giant Eagle uses one of the largest snow removal vendors in the country, Division Maintenance Group, in addition to some regional providers. Local companies typically take care of Giant Eagle’s HVAC and refrigeration, plumbing, door maintenance and electrical equipment.

A newly formed department within direct procurement, strategic sourcing, has begun partnering with the facility management team to help select vendors for Giant Eagle. After sending potential vendors an RFI (request for information), Giant Eagle then reaches out to references. “That guarantees that they are a fit for Giant Eagle and meet our requirements,” Willoughby says.

In the future, says Willoughby, the facilities team will continue its partnership with strategic sourcing and procurement, not only to identify cost savings but also to understand Giant Eagle’s demand and process management for facilities services.

“We want to increase the strategic approach to facilities management; we want to be looking down the road farther — coming up with capital plans that are longer range in mind, so we can forecast [equipment] replacement better, and we can prepare for replacements more easily,” Willoughby explains.

“Another goal we have is to look at our financial data and analyze that data to improve processes and garner additional cost savings opportunities,” he adds.

And, as always, Giant Eagle wants to continue to keep sustainability top of mind. To that end, the company has begun investigating solar power capabilities, and it also plans to begin testing LED lighting products for its parking lots. All new construction will continue to be built with the potential for LEED certification. Water from power washing will continue to be reclaimed, skylights will still be retrofitted, paper will still be shredded and recycled, and the grass won’t be cut quite as often. Because it’s not just the huge, award-winning initiatives that make Giant Eagle’s sustainability program a success — it’s the little things, too. 


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