The government is proposing to roll out smart meters to all small businesses across the UK by 2020. But you don’t need to leave it until then to invest if you want to stay at the top of your game: the savviest retailers are not only using smart meter data to save energy, they are using it to inform customers about their eco-ethos.

For the uninitiated, a smart meter provides real-time information so you can monitor your usage over short and specific periods of time, meaning that you can highlight expensive energy practices that are hidden in a standard amalgamated electricity bill.

Being able to pinpoint improvements on an annual, monthly and weekly basis can be an extremely useful back-office tool, points out energy consultant Brian O’Hagan, managing director at Ecomonitor. “You can tell your manager to switch off the wine chillers at night, but by getting a smart meter installed you can actually see if it’s being done,” he explains.

But there is also an opportunity for energy data to be utilised at front-of-house. Budgens owner Andrew Thornton is using a smart meter at his Crouch End store in London to tell customers more about his energy-saving actions as part of a project with Ecomonitor.

Install a smart meter Companies such as Ecomonitor can help you install a smart meter and work with you to help make your business more sustainable. 
For more information, contact Ecomonitor on 0845 680 9939, or talk to your current energy supplier 

Appoint an energy champion 
Many businesses have already successfully reduced their energy usage by giving a member of staff specific responsibility for making the store as energy efficient as possible 

Shout about the actions you are taking to save energy in-store 
Shopping locally is a greener option for customers than driving further to an out-of-town supermarket, so use every tool available to encourage customers to view their shopping habits that way

“It’s important that people understand the importance of sustainability,” says Andrew. “We’re passionate about reducing our carbon footprint, so we thought we might as well tell customers what we’re doing.”

Every three weeks, Ecomonitor records a number of energy-saving statistics specific to Andrew’s store. These are sent to the shop and uploaded onto digital screens, where customers can read them as they queue. “We’ll send Andrew messages like: ‘Last month we saved X amount of energy by keeping our refrigerators at the optimum temperature’,” explains O’Hagan. “It gets the message to customers that he is being pro-active when it comes to saving energy.”

If your budget won’t stretch to media screens, you can still let customers know via posters and staff communications. Ensuring that your whole team has access to the store’s energy-saving data means that the environmental message can filter through to shoppers. Many appoint energy champions to motivate the rest of the team. The more staff are engaged with the initiative, the more likely they are to pass on a positive message to customers.

And it’s not just customers who will look on you more favourably if you publicise the fact that you are making a conscious effort to reduce your store’s energy consumption. Local authorities will also see your actions as positive. Andrew’s local councillor is so impressed with his green attitude that his Crouch End store is being used as a case study for others to learn from.

So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to get smart, get green, and get vocal.