EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of six stories celebrating our latest group of 25 Best Dealerships To Work For in Canada.
Adopting green business practices can help dealerships become more profitable while attracting new business and talent, say leaders at some of Automotive News Canada’s Best Dealerships To Work For.
“Sustainability derives from a sense of excellence and efficient use of resources,” said Trent Hargrave, a partner at Riverside Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Prince Albert, Sask., 350 kilometres north of Regina.
“Just like we want people to be excellent and want to improve, sustainability works in that same way.”
Twenty-two of the 25 dealerships selected as the best to work for indicated they have enacted sustainable, green business practices, ranging from installing electric-vehicle charging stations and more efficient LED lighting, to giving employees and customers incentives to recycle.
Implementing green business practices can help attract employees, particularly younger applicants who value environmental causes, Hargrave said. His own dealership is moving to a paperless system and is examining ways to move into solar power and water conservation, he said.
‘LIVING WHAT YOU’RE SAYING’
“I don’t think it hurts. What it is, is acting with integrity [and backing up] what you say,” Hargrave said. “For any employee that matters to and for people who value authenticity and integrity, those are the people we want and want to retain.
“When you take those kinds of actions and you try and you strive, that resonates. You’re living what you’re saying, and that resonates with our staff.”
While small changes, such as printing less and recycling, could lead to marginal improvements in a dealership’s finances, structural modifications could boost cost savings substantially.
“We’re looking at a three-year payback on solar [panels],” Hargrave said. Although the upfront costs are considerable, long-term savings would result.
A July poll conducted by Forum Research found that more Canadians identified the environment as the most important issue facing the country.
It stands to reason that many consumers might place an emphasis on a store’s business practices when deciding where to buy a vehicle.
“It’s a newer generation that’s growing up that’s very conscious of the environment,” said Kim Coneita, general sales manager at O’Regan’s Kia Halifax. “That’s the new generation of buyers, and we have to recognize that’s the new generation that’s coming in.”
Coneita’s store has installed new LED lights and placed a major empha sis on recycling. In fact, Kia Halifax’s recycling program is designed to both reward employees and increase the dealership’s profile in the community she said. Funds gathered from recycling can go toward everything from paying for a food truck to stop by at lunch to sponsoring a youth hockey team.
Seemingly minor practices, such as increasing the number of recycling locations with the dealership, could significantly influence employ behaviour, Hargrave said.
“It’s funny. For paper use, we have a central printer because people print less pages if they have to get up from their desk and go get it. But the opposite is true for recycling.
“We had a central area for recycling, and now we have a bunch of spots.”
Coneita said Kia Halifax’s move to greener practices is internally driven and not being mandated by either Kia or the government.
“In big cities like Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, there are huge incentives to go green due to electric cars and things like that. The government incentivizes people to be green,” she said.
“Here in Nova Scotia, we don’t have that kind of support through the government, so the manufacture doesn’t really push it because we do have that support system.”