Over the past year, I’ve written and spoken about Kimco’s efforts to advance environmental sustainability among our retail tenants. Our motivations are simple: Improving the sustainability performance of our tenants can lower their total cost of occupancy; preserve scarce resources, such as energy and water; and enhance the overall value of Kimco’s shopping centers. The challenge is finding new and innovative ways to collaborate with retailers in an area that historically hasn’t received much attention from landlords and tenants.

In 2012 we launched a pilot project at Kimco’s Westlake Shopping Center to explore these issues in further detail. The pilot project was intended to better understand how tenants use energy within open-air retail centers, what opportunities exist to improve energy efficiency, and what barriers currently exist to pursuing those efforts.

Some of the results were highlighted in a blog post written by our EDF Climate Corps fellow Linus Hong. Linus wrote about a knowledge gap that exists, particularly for small to medium-sized retailers, about sustainability opportunities within their businesses. He also highlighted the fact that there is no silver bullet to achieving better results in this area. In reality, a number of factors -- including tenant behavior, physical building systems, and others -- contribute to the performance of a retail store.

Although this pilot project is ongoing, the early results suggest that perhaps the first step to advancing retailer sustainability is providing tools and information that will raise awareness of what opportunities exist. To that end, we recently set out to create a new resource for Kimco’s retail tenants.

Kimco’s new Tenant Sustainability Tip Sheet, which we are releasing today on our website and through our tenant welcome package, was developed in partnership with the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star® program. It provides a set of best practices that are tailored to retail operators. The tips are separated into four categories: Energy, Waste, Water, and a special section dedicated to Food Service tenants.

The recommendations incorporate a number of low- or no-cost measures that we identified as “low hanging fruit” through a comprehensive audit of both food and non-food oriented retail spaces at Westlake in 2013. We recognize that, for many reasons, larger equipment replacement projects are not feasible for some retailers today. But as landlords and tenants work together on solutions to those challenges, retailers can start down the path of improved sustainability by pursuing operational best practices -- like benchmarking their energy performance through the EPA’s Portfolio Manager® and utilizing programmable thermostats to reduce after-hours heating and cooling.

The release of our tip sheet also represents Kimco’s first official collaboration with Energy Star following our recent decision to formally sign on as a Partner of the program. Energy Star is one of the most widely recognized and respected brands in its space, and the Energy Star for Buildings program has worked since the 1990s to advance energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings. We see our partnership with Energy Star as a natural fit -- one that provides Kimco with resources to better measure and improve the performance of our portfolio, and one that will help provide Kimco’s retail tenants with resources to pursue the same objectives within their leased spaces.

Over the coming months and years, we will continue to work in partnership with Energy Star and through other initiatives to promote sustainability among our retail tenants. Stay tuned for progress updates via the Kimco blog.

Are you taking steps to promote tenant sustainability, or do you have feedback on our Tenant Sustainability Tip Sheet? If so, please leave a comment.