What began as a small waterfront shop in Portland, Maine, has become a chain of ultra-green supermarkets known as Hannaford. Part of the Belgium-based Delhaize Group, the grocer has more than 175 supermarkets throughout New England. Lisa Miller, vice president of corporate development northeast and corporate responsibility for Delhaize America, recently spoke with gb&d about Hannaford’s vision and its new LEED Platinum store. In her own words, here’s a look at how the company plans to remain at the forefront of the environmental movement.

Lisa Miller is the vice president of corporate development Northeast and corporate responsibility for Delhaize America, the parent company of Hannaford.

Start early. Hannaford has a long history of innovation in our industry and is known in particular for supply-chain efficiencies. Our reputation for environmental responsibility took a major leap forward in the early 1990s with a company program called Earth Matters. Under that initiative, Hannaford became the first food retailer in the country to offer plastic- and paper-bag recycling and was a leader in developing CFC- and HCFC-free refrigeration systems to protect the ozone layer. In the early 1990s, Hannaford also put a substantial focus on in-store recycling and raised environmental awareness among customers, including [by] incentivizing the use of reusable bags.

Keep the lead. Our warehouses and supermarkets all utilize state-of-the-art automation systems that allow remote monitoring and control of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning, refrigeration, and lighting systems to reduce our energy consumption. We’ve also increased overall energy efficiency and created optimized delivery schedules with our modernized truck fleet while delivering fresh product daily to all our stores—an industry first. In 2010 alone, Hannaford Trucking reduced its diesel-fuel consumption by 137,000 gallons. Our Close to Home initiative, which puts a spotlight on locally grown and locally made products, has also helped make us more sustainable. Store managers currently partner directly with more than 220 local farmers.

Hannaford’s location in Augusta, Maine, is the first supermarket in the world to achieve LEED Platinum certification, thanks to efforts such as regional sourcing: the building’s stone was mined in New York state.

The Augusta store’s green roof features drought-resistant sedum, which filters stormwater runoff and reduces heat island effect.

Focus on the bigger picture. Our store in Augusta, Maine, was the first supermarket in the world to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC. To us, the store demonstrates outstanding performance across the areas that matter most in our Delhaize Group corporate responsibility plan: people, products, and the planet. We knew this project would stretch us and become a learning laboratory for our company, and we were ready for the challenge. The dream to create this store also had us looking to new ideas and practices. For example, we learned about and used a broader range of sustainable materials than ever before. We knew that every individual action or material chosen within the project would not have a return on investment, but the project as a whole made sense. In addition, our customers and the community appreciated that we had achieved a first for our state and nation, and our LEED Platinum store has became a powerful symbol of both our legacy and our aspirations for the future.

Harness employee voices. Associates in the Augusta store are more engaged than ever and are a critical part of our commitment to educating our community about sustainability. They have hosted national and international businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies interested in green building and can often be found giving tours of the store. Both our customers and our associates recognize that Hannaford is a company that supports locally sourced products and operates in a sustainable manner. That’s something everyone can be proud of.

Maintain momentum. We’ve applied for LEED certification for our Skowhegan, Maine, and Bennington, Vermont, stores under the Existing Building Operations & Maintenance program. As part of the submission, we conducted waste audits for the two stores and set up formal tracking and monitoring. The result was a 60 percent waste reduction at these two stores; our goal is to take similar actions across the whole chain. Currently, we have a 67 percent recycling [and] reuse rate of all cardboard, plastic, wood, metal, and food waste from our operation. Our vision for the future calls for even more focus on sustainability. We will continue to be innovative in all aspects of sustainability, from building design to improving the sustainability and nutritional value of our private brands.