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How J.C. Penney Saved $100M by Stepping Up Sustainability

For retailers, there’s more to sustainability than selling USDA certified organic cotton T-shirts. J.C. Penney, for one, has discovered that shrinking its environmental footprint can generate significant cost savings.

The Plano, Texas-based department store chain said Wednesday that after five years spent following a large-scale conservation strategy to cut back on energy consumption, it had managed to save nearly $100 million.

The power-saving program—which kicked off in 2009 and involved building upgrades, remote monitoring of ventilation and air-conditioning systems and keeping a watchful eye on lighting—reduced overall energy usage by 19 percent, falling just short of the company’s target of cutting consumption by 20 percent by 2015.

Extensive renovations to revamp millions of square feet of selling space in J.C. Penney stores across the country were cited as the main reason for missing the goal, but the retailer estimated that without having such a plan in place, base energy consumption would have increased by nearly 2 percent.

“J.C. Penney has been environmentally-minded for decades and the results of our long-term energy initiative demonstrate how seriously we take conservation,” Katheryn Burchett, senior vice president of corporate services and real estate, said in a statement, which noted that nearly 46 percent of the energy saved was down to conservation and operational improvements. “We owe a great deal of the success to our dedicated associates, who were mindful of their energy decisions over the course of the campaign.”

But don’t just take her word for it. J.C. Penney recently received Energy Star’s Partner of the Year recognition for Sustained Excellence for the ninth year in a row, while in 2014, 100 stores were awarded Energy Star certifications, bringing the chain’s total number of certified retail locations to 616 as well as one distribution center and the company headquarters.

Plus, three J.C. Penney stores were recognized in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Building Competition for reducing energy consumption by more than 20 percent in 2014.

The retailer plans to unveil a new energy initiative later this year.