Sustainability can be complicated, but Dick’s Sporting Goods executive Peter Land revealed how the retailer is making a difference through partnership.
Today, in conversation with FN senior editor Nikara Johns during the FN CEO Summit at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in Miami, Land — the chief communications and sustainability officer and SVP at Dick’s Sporting Goods — addressed some of the sustainability challenges that are unique to the retailer.
“If you look at Target, Home Depot, they own most of their real estate. We rent it, we don’t own any of our stores,” Land said. “From that perspective, we have certain things we can control and certain things we can’t control.”
Land shared some of the things Dick’s Sporting Goods has been able to do on its own, including replacing lighting and upgrading the HVAC systems. Land also shared how the retailer has leveraged its relationships with its landlords.
“Because of the situation we’re in as a renter, we have to work with our landlords. The good news is some of our bigger landlords, like Simon and Brookfield, they also have sustainability goals,” Land said. “When we sit down and have those conversations with landlords, we’re saying, ‘Hey, how can we work on this together?'”
Land offered an example of how the retailer has worked on sustainable solutions in partnership with its landlords.
“In many malls from a waste diversion standpoint, at the end of the day plastic and cardboard will be carted away way from each store. We were talking to some of landlords a couple years ago and I said, ‘That’s not the most practical from a sustainability standpoint. Why don’t we have one track and stop at all the stores?'” Land said. “That’s good for all the different stores that are in the mall and it’s also good from a waste diversion standpoint because it saves energy from having 12 trucks to just one truck.”
Land also identified what he believes is the retailer’s greatest challenge when it comes to sustainability at the store level, which is figuring out how to adopt solar at scale as a renter.
“We can make that decision on our own, so we have to partner with our landlords. And again, subtly, they’re all interested, but there’s a cost in all this work,” Land said. “We’re looking at community solar, which is important. A lot of stores are starting to go there, and with the most recent tax credits that are available, that’s also an unlock of a lot of opportunity.”
This spirit of partnership extends to the brands it sells.
“We’re actually super fortunate because a lot of our brand partners are really far along on their journey. Many so many of our partners are huge into their sustainability journey,” Land said. “We want to work with them, and if it’s important for them to promote their sustainable products, then we are inclined to do that.”
He continued, “We have conversations all the time, but at some level, it’s going to have to be driven by consumer demand because if you have the choice of what you’re putting out on the shelf, there’s a certain amount you have to consider from a sales point of view. On the other hand, you want to be doing the right thing for the planet and putting out sustainable product. It’s about offering choice. The data that we have, especially from younger consumers, is that more and more those are choices that they actually want to make.”
In terms of what Dick’s Sporting Goods is doing on its own, Land detailed several sustainability-driven initiatives. One effort is the removal of plastic bags at point of sale.
“We’re a little over a third of the way there,” Land said. “Some of this is regulatory, some of it is we just want to do the right thing. For us, we’re also making sure that we’re giving people options, it’s important to give consumers packaging options. We [Land and Johns] live in New York, and when we walk into Gristedes they say, ‘Do you want to buy paper or do you have to have your own?’ Some of that is consumer behavior. Consumer behavior does change over time. So now in New York, when I go out, everybody knows you don’t leave your house without a bag if you’re going to go shopping.”
Also, Land said the company is working to become more efficient, which should have a great impact in terms of sustainability.
“From a technology standpoint, what we’re doing in stores is we are using technology to make sure the wrapping of our products, going from stores out to customers — athletes is what we call customers — is more and more efficient,” Land said. “We’re taking thousands of miles of driving off the highway by using technology and data to get smart about how to fill the truck and how it comes back and so forth using fewer miles.”