BEING green. Those are two words that are increasingly becoming the norm in everyday vocabulary for everyone ranging from MPs in Westminster to your grandmother.
It’s the thing that we should all be doing and the motor industry is quickly learning it needs to catch up.
That’s why Car Dealer is supporting the Green Organisation’s inaugural Green Apple Awards for Car Dealerships.
The motor trade is increasingly becoming a crucial arena for green-minded thinking and endeavour. It’s not just about those dealers who have to sell electric and hybrid cars though – green issues are now vital for every dealer.
From sparkling and glamorous brand centres to the independent under the railway arches, we all need to think about the little (and big) things which can help the planet out.
These days the motor trade needn’t be a sector that is all about dirty cars and even dirtier dealerships. With the advent of greener motoring, dealers are becoming greener too – and these awards will celebrate the very best.
Very soon we will be calling for entries – and dealers, no matter what size of site or operation, will be able to enter and earn themselves recognition on a national and even international scale for their exploits and attitude.
The UK is facing some big targets in order to become more environmentally responsible. Of all the energy produced by European countries, 20 per cent will need to be renewable by 2020, and that’s not forgetting the UK’s own target to produce 15 per cent of the country’s energy from renewable sources within nine years. That’s an almost ten-fold increase from 2008, and there are even some figures suggesting that by 2050 there will be two billion hybrid cars on the world’s roads…
But let’s be more realistic. Dealers across the UK, whether they are large or small, can help out in their own way – and they should be, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
‘Good environmental practice is increasingly important in the UK motor industry,’ SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt told us. ‘If a business is not actively managing the energy and water it uses or the waste it creates it will be paying more than it needs to and risking its reputation.
‘The industry is working hard to reduce the impact of its products; from initial design to end- of-life disposal. This approach is opening up new business opportunities where industrial success and environmental protection go hand in hand.’
It ranges from everything – from making sure the lights are turned off to constructing dealerships that have the latest technologies like wind turbines and oil recycling facilities. In fact, these activities needn’t only be about improving the environment; they can save you money too.
‘Earlier this year we published a Dealer Energy Efficiency Guide, which demonstrated simple ways to use less energy and save up to £10,000 per year,’ says Everitt (it was something Car Dealer featured heavily too).
‘There’s already some great work being done, and by using the guide’s simple seven-step action plan, retailers can become even greener and save money. Our study found that energy could be saved in all sorts of areas including heating controls on the boiler, door seals, radiant heaters, fan speed on air-handling units, air- conditioning settings, time controls and leaks on air compressors.’
It sounds a bit of a cliché, but it’s the little things which can make a big difference, explains Richard Collins, event organiser for the Green Apple Awards for Car Dealerships.
‘If 12,000 dealerships collectively over the next 10 years cut their energy performance by 30 to 40 per cent, hundreds of thousands of pounds could be saved and a considerable reduction could be made in energy being produced from power stations,’ he says. ‘It’s also something as simple as carrying out best practice and taking the environment seriously.’
That’s precisely what the Green Apple Awards for Car Dealerships is all about. It’s about giving dealerships recognition for environmental and sustainable best practice. From new builds to the aforementioned light switch, dealers who can show they are acting sustainably in the day-to- day business of selling cars are the ones who can really make the most of these awards – and of the benefits they can bring.
But what’s the background behind these awards? ‘Well, they’re born out of the Green Apple Awards for the built environment and architectural best practice, and also for environmental best practice in general,’ explains Collins.
‘In the past we have had automotive categories which have done very, very well. So in line with the built environment awards, and with the current introduction of electric car technology, we have been thinking about dealers.’
You see if dealers are going to be selling environmentally performing cars, what are they doing about their own performance? It’s a perfectly decent question, believes Collins.
‘There are tens of thousands of franchised and independent dealerships across the UK, most of which run large dealerships with a lot of glass and light.
‘They are a prime target for reducing their carbon footprint, in line with key governmental targets including the Kyoto Protocol treaty.
‘So we have also decided to create this award scheme after discussions with the British Research Establishment, and we thought this was a good time to specifically concentrate on the automotive industry. We also feel now is the right time – people are receptive towards looking at and making their businesses green and are financially rewarded for that.
‘There are some dealers who are dealing with these issues head-on, there are some dealers who are having eco retro refurbishments, while others are having complete rebuilds.
Everyone is falling over themselves to try to tell everyone what they are doing, and what we have noticed is that consumers are starting to make purchase decisions based on the green credentials of the dealer they are considering buying from.’
Consumers are beginning to know more about hybrid, electric and more fuel-efficient motoring and are starting to want to get involved with it. But it’s one thing for car manufacturers to spend hundreds of millions of pounds building cars to suit public demand – dealers need to complete the green cycle too by showing consumers they are environmentally aware.
‘To take an example, Fiat won a Green Apple Award in 2009 because they had looked at how they could educate owners on fuel consumption and emissions relating to their driving style,’ says Collins.
‘The public are a lot more savvy now. If you think about the age of austerity in which we live – the cost of fuel, energy and so on – a lot of these measures are about reducing those costs. We want to encourage car dealers to not only turn off the lights at night, to close doors and to recycle paper, but also to get rid of waste materials properly and bring in parts in an environmentally considerate way, for example – it is about all of those things which contribute to a better performing dealership.
‘If a dealership wins an award, they can use that as a badge of honour to entice customers to their showroom to see not only green cars but also show consumers that their own dealerships are good to the environment.’
History of the Green Apple Awards
THE Green Apple Awards began 16 years ago and are run by the Green Organisation which is an independent, non-political, non-activist, and a non-profit environmental group dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practice around the world.
The organisation is keen on promoting the good aspects of ‘being green’ rather than being a watchdog for it.
It’s best known for organising the Green Apple Awards, is accredited by the RSA, and is one of the only UK campaigns which is accepted as an automatic feeder scheme into the European Business Awards for the Environment – so the Car Dealership Awards really are the tip of the iceberg. The Green Dealer Awards will also give opportunities for dealerships and dealer groups to become a ‘green hero’.
‘What that means is that they will have the opportunity of publishing their work in an international journal,’ says Richard Collins.
So a dealer’s good work and attitude could be used in universities and libraries across the world.