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Convenience store chain to open eco-friendly outlets

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Lawson Inc. plans to open eco-friendly stores in which all electricity will come from renewable energy sources and plastic use will be reduced.

Lawson will initially open one outlet — tentatively dubbed Green Lawson — in the Tokyo metropolitan area this year and will consider converting other outlets across the nation depending on feedback from customers, among other factors.

“We want to lead the way in promoting SDG [sustainable development goals] initiatives by creating value with environmentally friendly Green Lawson,” said Lawson President Sadanobu Takemasu, who revealed the project in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The new stores will be equipped with solar panels on their roofs and additional electricity will be supplied by Lawson’s parent company, Mitsubishi Corp., which plans to start solar power generation on idled land from spring this year.

Lawson is aiming to halve carbon dioxide emissions at all of its stores in fiscal 2030 from the fiscal 2013 level. The company is also taking measures to reduce the energy consumption of its refrigeration equipment.

To reduce food waste, caused mainly by the disposal of unsold meals and deli products approaching the end of their shelf life, Green Lawson stores will streamline kitchen operations with in-store cooking geared toward customers who place orders on smartphones.

They will also increase the lineup of frozen foods, as there tends to be more time before their expiration dates, and cut back on refrigerated foods that tend to be disposed of when their use-by dates approach.

To cut plastic waste and packaging, the new stores will aim to sell certain items by weight, such as detergent and shampoo, and will sell drinks in paper cartons. It will also stop handing out disposable plastic cutlery with ready-made meals.

Lawson is considering offering reward points to customers who cooperate with the company’s green efforts.

Other companies have also adopted measures with the environment in mind, including Aeon Co., an operator of large-scale commercial facilities, which uses 100% renewable energy at 11 facilities in areas including Nagoya and Chiba.

As of the end of October 2021, Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd. has been using electricity from renewable energy sources in about 20% of its stores.

For a company to adopt wide-ranging efforts related to the environment, such as using 100% renewable energy and reducing food and plastic waste in the way that Lawson has proposed, is rare.

Although using electricity from renewable energy sources will raise store operating costs, the company plans to gradually increase the number of eco-friendly stores without launching Green Lawson as a new brand.

Takemasu said: “Young people, who are more aware of environmental concerns, will become our core consumers 10 years from now. Offering a wider choice in our stores will increase our competitiveness.”

Amid a worker shortage that is expected to worsen, Lawson also plans to launch a new self-service checkout system that will enable customers to pay for items by scanning barcodes on their smartphones, without the need for going to a cash register.