Kermit the Frog once sang: It’s not easy being green. When he wrote that line for the work’s most famous Muppet, Jim Hensen probably didn’t realise there would be an enterprising young furniture retailer from Windsor, Ontario who figured out that being green would not only enhance his family company’s reputation but would make money doing so. Not only that, his efforts would award winning as well.
Earlier this year, the London Chamber of Commerce presented its Environmental Leadership Award to Tepperman’s Furniture, the now five-unit regional chain lead by third generation president Andrew Tepperman. The accolade is part of the chamber’s London Business Achievements Awards program, which is one of the largest and most prestigious in the country.
In his address to the 1,200 or so members of the business elite from across southwestern Ontario who attend the awards gala, Tepperman noted environmental sustainability is a key element of the company’s ten-year vision and central to its continuing success.
“Reducing our energy consumption, minimizing our use of landfills and producing less garbage on the whole will help us achieve our environmental sustainability goals,” he said. “Our teams have worked hard to create company recycling programs, retrofit LED lighting into our showrooms and warehouses and installing foam emulsifiers. We know that stewardship of environmental sustainability has no end.”
In an interview with Home Goods Online, Tepperman noted being stewards of the environment is something of a family tradition. “I think this all started with Grandpa Nate who founded our business in 1925 going door-to-door on foot. He had a zero carbon footprint!” he chortled. “Actually, he couldn’t afford a car, so I’ll use that story for now.”
While the award was given to the London store – which opened in late 2008 and received the first Don Smith Commercial Building Award for environmental sensitivity, design and construction two years later – the environmental practises used there are also found in the company’s other units in Windsor, Chatham, Sarnia and now, Kitchener.
Tepperman revealed that within the company’s ten-year 2025 Vision are six Guiding Principles with one being environmental leadership. “Each department, whether you’re in I.T., warehousing, or sales will incorporate these six principles into their annual strategic plans,” he explained. “So, these environmental initiatives are company-wide. We do have specific tests in various locations like electric car charging stations in Kitchener and solar we’re planning to test in London.
“Each quarter when I do my town halls in each store, we talk about what we done with environmental sustainability during the last period and new initiatives going forward,” he continued. “For Tepperman’s, it’s not just about helping the environment, it’s about being a leader in environmental sustainability.”
Each of the five stores also has their own robust internal recycling program. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to find ways of reducing waste and new ideas to recycle,” Tepperman said. “For example, one store asked why we were printing three copies of every order. It turned out we didn’t need to file one copy simply by storing the digital version. That alone saved hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper. Sustainability is a feel-good thing but it also can save money.”
It’s also about measuring the results, which is why the London store was honoured by the Chamber of Commerce this year.
Last year, Tepperman’s diverted 30 tons of plastic, 520 tons of cardboard and 312,000 cubic feet of Styrofoam from local landfills in London. It’s also about being open about its efforts. In a partnership with Waste Solutions Canada, Tepperman’s has launched a web site available where the public can review accurate tracking of the waste disposed of by the facility, which houses both an 85,000 square foot store and a 100,000 square foot distribution centre. (teppermans.wastetracking.com).
Editor’s Note: Since the Merchandiser went to press; Andrew Tepperman has told HGO the company has been approved to the Ontario government’s solar FIT program and will install a system in the London store in the spring of 2017.
Tepperman’s is also teaming up with a researcher at Western University who is finding ways of cracking molecules in waste and turning them into usable materials and is involved with a grant program experimenting with mattress recycling. “If it works, the City of London wants to do something with us as well,” he said. “Bedding waste has been a challenge for all municipalities in North America.”