By Connie Sue Centrella
There is a feeling of hope for the aquatics industry as there have been many signs for a rebound. Yet, the economic crisis created fear, anxiety, frustration, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of both industry professionals and consumers alike. Recovering requires looking at new ways to sell pool products and services. How businesses choose to revolutionize their operations to meet the demands of the consumer will ultimately determine their future. Practicing sustainability can help revitalize a business, but first it must be understood, and embraced.
Consumers have changed their buying habits over the past few years. Now they are looking for ways in which to modify their lifestyles yet still enjoy the pleasures and benefits of their own swimming environment. It is vital for pool/hot tub businesses to acknowledge this change and embrace what is attractive to consumers—energy-efficient, money-saving ‘green’ products.
Today’s world is all about ‘green’
People are looking for ‘green’ benefits, for example, where the products come from, how energy-efficient they are, and how they can improve health. In this regard, sustainability strategies are emerging as the new business mantra, and the future of the aquatics industry will depend on everyone’s ability to accept ‘green’ as a new way of thinking. Care for the environment is on the minds of many industry professionals, as well. In fact, all facets of the industry are in the midst of changing their strategies to foster this movement. Therefore, to gain a competitive advantage a new set of rules will need to be adopted. For instance, products not only need to offer consumers a ‘greener’ value, but also greater energy efficiency benefits that send a strong environmental message showing the business cares about the future of the planet.
To seize this competitive advantage more businesses will focus on new technology, while the attributes of environmentally friendly products rest on energy consumption, carbon footprint, toxicity, origin, and payback.
First in the pool industry’s ‘green’ revolution was the implementation of variable-speed pumps (VSPs) to reduce energy consumption. A number of regions are implementing energy codes that require a reduction in swimming pool electrical usages; changing over to two-speed and/or variable-speed pool pumps is one example. In fact, some municipalities have or are offering rebates and energy reduction incentives. Reducing toxic and often hazardous chemicals that ultimately reach lakes and streams must also become a priority. To meet this challenge, consumers are learning about electrolytic chlorine generators (ECGs), ultraviolet (UV), and ozone as alternative methods of killing bacteria without harming the environment.
Further, consumers are conscious about the cost of energy to move products along the supply chain; therefore, manufacturers are also working to retrofit their plants to be more energy-efficient when it comes to tooling, recycling paper and vinyl, and/or implementing solar heating to reduce carbon emissions. Distributors are looking for ways to change their shipping habits to reduce gas consumption, thus lowering their carbon footprint. To find new ways of bringing ‘green’ products to market to meet consumer demand, the industry must first create an energy lifecycle footprint of all the products being sold.
Retailers and contractors also need to get on board with the ‘green’ revolution. Not by ‘greenwashing’ their marketing, but rather taking it upon themselves to modify their stores and building habits to recycle, become paperless, and retrofit trucks and equipment in the field to achieve energy reductions.
Adopting a set of green initiatives will spark this revolution—everyone in the industry must get lean, smart, creative, and engaged.
Efficient management of internal business operations related to energy costs is key to profitability in the new ‘green’ revolution. This starts with an internal audit. Industry professionals should review their income statement and identify expenses that relate to energy consumption. Gas reductions and changing out office/store lighting to reduce electricity are two examples; slashing just one per cent off each will enhance profits. Utility companies offer monitoring devices, which can be placed on meters to determine high- and low-energy usage periods. These changes take careful planning and execution and require a shift in employee behaviour. Employees like to stay in the present; execution of a get lean strategy will take effort, but challenging team members to take small steps toward sustainability will give them a new co-operative spirit. Getting lean also requires setting aside dollars to invest in updated office equipment and transforming internal functions to improve energy efficiency. Internally, getting lean requires measurements of electricity, paper, and computer usages in addition to completing a financial analysis. What gets measured gets done.