The Environment+Energy Leader honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the Honorees… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.
Meet Dan Gavin, Vice President of national real estate with ALDI US. Dan is am primarily responsible for developing and implementing the company’s national growth strategy. In this capacity, he leads a team that is responsible for growing store presence locally by selecting convenient, high traffic locations for new ALDI stores and distribution centers. His team also oversees the selection of store locations that are eligible for remodel or expansion. “The design specifications play a critical role in both of these facilities to ensure we are employing energy efficient systems and advanced technologies to minimize our carbon footprint,” he says.
In addition to the real estate aspect of his position, Dan oversees a facilities, systems and sustainability team that is responsible for equipment throughout the company’s stores, such as refrigeration systems, HVAC units, lighting, building materials, solar arrays etc. “Our team ensures the proper functionality of the equipment while also assessing eco-friendly alternatives to support the company’s sustainability priorities. Given my unique position overseeing both teams, I have a large impact on making our stores more energy efficient and environmentally friendly,” Dan says.
What is your biggest energy management challenge? How are you addressing it?
Dan Gavin: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a challenge for all businesses, particularly as we strive towards a zero-carbon future and continue to balance available technologies. We work to accomplish this while maintaining our promise for low-cost groceries for our customers. At ALDI, we are committed to making positive changes across our operations. In March 2021, we announced a sustainability charter that outlined goals ALDI is committed to achieving by specific dates. One of these goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025.
We employ a multifaceted approach to reaching a zero-carbon future. In addition to transitioning our refrigeration equipment, we use more than one billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually, which represents nearly 100% of our operation’s total power needs. Additionally, we’ve implemented solar energy at more than 120 stores and 12 distribution centers across the country, and we have plans to continue adding solar panels to roughly 60 more stores by the end of 2022. We’ve even installed our very own wind turbine at our Dwight, Illinois, distribution center powering up to 40% of its electricity needs.
With the support from my teams, I am helping our business eliminate harmful refrigerants in stores and regional distribution centers by transitioning to more environmentally friendly options. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed. In fact, in 2020, I was proud that our work earned us more EPA GreenChill certifications than any other supermarket chain. To date, nearly 430 ALDI stores have received a GreenChill certification. I was also thrilled we were recognized by the EPA with the 2020 GreenChill Store Certification Excellence award for achieving the most GreenChill store certifications in the past year as well as a 2020 Store Re-Certification Excellence award for 31 of our stores that have earned GreenChill certifications for five consecutive years. Our partnership with the EPA has been incredibly helpful with our transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerant options and continues to play a major role in our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases by 26% by 2025.
What was a successful project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Do you have any tips that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects?
DG: Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of leading a more than $5 billion, 7-year program to remodel more than 1,400 existing ALDI stores and open more than 800 new stores. As part of this project, we are implementing more environmentally friendly building materials, energy efficient HVAC units, LED lighting and refrigeration systems that use natural refrigerants. Thus far, we have fitted more than 1,930 stores to include more energy efficient LED lighting through the new build and remodel process.
For colleagues looking to complete similar projects and make their stores/locations more environmentally friendly, I have a few pieces of advice:
1. Listen to your customers. At ALDI, we continuously check in with our customers to learn what is important to them so we can serve them best. Much like the ALDI business, sustainability and corporate responsibility are very important topics to our customers. Customer feedback reinforces our drive to continue developing and implementing new ways to be a more sustainable and eco-friendly company.
2. Integrate wherever possible. It’s likely that stores will need to be remodeled every now and then, and this is a great time to integrate your real estate efforts with your sustainability priorities. Through integration, you will be able to remodel the store and take necessary steps for your company on its path to becoming more environmentally friendly.
3. Communicate with your team and company leadership. ALDI is committed to having a positive impact on the communities we serve, and that extends to being good stewards of the environment. Our corporate leadership is passionate about sustainability, and it has been crucial that my teams maintain an open line of communication as they continue to test and implement new sustainability programs.
4. Partner with your vendors and service companies to drive a collective goal of continual improvement. For example, there are challenges with the adoption of new technology, particularly in new markets. Creating a collaborative environment can help facilitate motivated teams for better adoption of technologies, and positive solutions.
What challenges will the industry face as we move toward a zero-carbon future?
DG: There is undoubtedly a long road ahead in the uphill march towards our zero-carbon vision. In the near future, simpler opportunities will be replaced with more expensive, unproven technologies. Despite risks, we must continue to explore new solutions in order to drive progress.
For example, we are looking for solutions to move to low GWP refrigerants in even the toughest climates (southern & coastal). We are also exploring technology to move away from natural gas for heating to more sustainable options. Additionally, electric vehicles are a growing topic for us as we explore new solutions, infrastructure and technology to adapt to a greener road for business vehicles. EVs come with their own set of challenges including cost and range but we are committed to optimizing new technology for a greener future.
Do you have any favorite hobbies or passions that have an impact on you and your work?
DG: A week after graduating from Cornell University in 1987 I joined ALDI; a few months later I became a devoted husband and within three years a proud father. My family is my passion and driving force to who I am today. Dedication to my family aligns with my responsibility as a leader at ALDI. Creating better opportunities or solutions for my family or ALDI comes from being accountable for my decisions and willing to go the extra mile to do what is right, and being reliable as a servant leader and diligent in earning respect.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DG: I’m incredibly proud of the way our teams continue to move the needle when it comes to our alternative energy usage. We were recently ranked No. 2 on the EPA’s Top 30 Retail Partners list and No. 15 on the Green Power Partner’s National Top 100 List of the largest green power users. I’m proud to lead a team that works closely with ALDI leadership to achieve this recognition for our green power efforts, and we’re just getting started.
It is a privilege to lead such a dedicated team of people who are incredibly committed to achieving our corporate responsibility and sustainability goals. From each other and from our customers, we garner the inspiration to keep developing innovative ways to have a positive impact on our communities and our planet.
Editor’s note: nominations are now open for this year’s E+E Honorees. Nominate a colleague — or yourself — for the 2022 E+E Honorees today.