Many independent retailers avoid 'green' projects because they believe they cost too much, according to The Grocer's latest Top 50 reader panel survey.

As many as a quarter of retailers questioned say the initial investment to get some projects underway has prevented them from setting them up. That figure includes those actively working on other environmental programmes. One says: “We can't afford to be as 'green' as we would like to be, because the margins we make won't allow us to invest in environmentally friendly projects.”

He adds that the long term benefit still didn't persuade him to overcome this barrier: “In the long run, if I invest now, I probably won't have a long run.”

However, the view is not shared by the majority. One retailer says: “The cost of schemes doesn't stop us investing, because we are looking to the future, although it could be prohibitive for some people.”

Nine out of ten of retailers we surveyed claim to be working on 'green' projects. One independent chain insists that the top supermarkets aren't the only ones to be focusing on environmentally friendly schemes involving shopping bags: “We have just introduced bio degradable carrier bags.”

Another says he's focusing on several initiatives including “working on better segregation of waste in stores and launching a campaign to encourage employees to turn switches off where appropriate”.

Eight out of ten respondents even believe that championing 'green' issues could help them to attract more shoppers. That said, many insist that independents should be prepared to blow their own trumpet more when it comes to working on such projects. One says: “Making your business more environmentally friendly can attract more shoppers, but only if what you're doing is properly communicated.”

However, opinions are evenly split over whether work on 'green' initiatives could or could not save them money. “It's doubtful,” says one. “The investment seems to be all one way at the moment in terms of the added cost of these projects.”

Another says: “I believe they could save us money. The right use of electricity in particular fascinates me, but getting the right advice is a problem. It's difficult to find someone you can trust.”

The findings follow the revelation that The Grocer Top 50 member Mills Group is rolling out energy saving systems across its 76-store estate ('Mills' energy saving chillers are multiplying', The Grocer, August 12, p8). It is introducing chillers that use less electricity than those previously used by the retailer and is also installing heating systems that draw power from chillers.

The questions we asked:

1: Do you agree with the idea of an environmentally friendly strategy?
Yes - 100%
No - 0%

2: Are you planning or launching 'green' projects?
Yes - 90%
No - 10%

3: Does the cost of such projects stop you investing in them?
Yes - 25%
No - 75%

4: Do you think any 'green' initiatives could save you money?
Yes - 50%
No - 50%

5: Would making your business 'greener' attract more shoppers?
Yes - 80%
No - 20%