Bonus content: Graybar’s Platform for Energy-Efficient Solutions


by Jan Niehaus

St. Louis-based Graybar has garnered numerous awards for its many ambitious sustainability initiatives, tED magazine’s “Greenest of the Green” being the most recent. As the operator of more than 200 branches, Regional Service Centers, Zone Warehouses, and corporate facilities, Graybar serves as its own laboratory and has created multiple onsite showrooms to demonstrate to customers across the nation the value of its energy-efficiency solutions in real-time operation.

A statement on Graybar’s website succinctly explains the company’s position: “At Graybar, we are committed to environmental sustainability, both in the way we run our business and in the solutions we provide our customers.”

According to Ryan Thompson, national market manager, “Graybar has an inside-out approach to sustainability. We practice what we preach, which makes our customers confident and comfortable with the solutions we recommend. Our sustainable practices serve as an example to our customers that we understand firsthand the energy challenges they face. We like to think our customers want to do business with distributors that not only sell green solutions but also use those very same solutions. We can then apply that knowledge to work to our customers’ advantage.”

“In addition to being good stewards of our company resources, another component of Graybar’s larger sustainability plan is to provide energy solutions to our customers across all the vertical markets we serve,” added Bill Mansfield, vice president of marketing.

The company has gathered its many energy-efficiency products and services under the banner Graybar PowerSmart, which is aimed at helping customers reduce their operating expenses and meet their sustainability goals.

Graybar PowerSmart, which was expanded considerably in 2012, consists of five components: building automation and controls, power management and critical power, lighting and lighting controls, renewable energy, and related services.

Altogether, the Graybar PowerSmart products and services constitute a comprehensive set of energy-saving solutions, encouraging customers to take a more integrated approach to resource conservation and sustainability.

Graybar has implemented these solutions across its locations—everything from energy audits at every one of its properties, lighting retrofits at more than 100 of its owned facilities, and programmable thermostats in 80% of its facilities, to building automation systems in two of its St. Louis properties and PV solar at its new LEED Gold certified branch in Tucson, Ariz.

In all five Graybar PowerSmart categories, the company has established strategic relationships with leading manufacturers to supply high-quality products and introduce the latest proven solutions to meet customers’ needs.

As with their product solutions, Graybar’s value-added service offering also expands continuously, in response to technology innovations and customer needs. Graybar PowerSmart teams train regularly on the many new products and technologies available in the marketplace.

Today, Graybar PowerSmart services include lighting and energy audits by Graybar’s technical specialists and calculation of the ROI on recommended facilities improvements. Graybar also helps customers leverage applicable utility rebates and assists them in securing other financial support for their investments. Graybar has also established relationships with third-party service providers to offer customers whole building auditing and benchmarking.

Graybar’s programs to reduce and recycle product packing materials and jobsite waste are extensive. For example, “Graybar consolidates product orders and delivers products in heavy-duty plastic containers, reducing the number of cardboard cartons on customers’ jobsites,” said Jeff Netherton, director of corporate real estate development.

The company arranges for recycling of customers’ lamps, ballasts, and batteries and—in response to a request from a contractor customer based in Portland, Ore.—Graybar also collects and recycles plastic cable spools from customers’ construction sites.

“We also offer job site cleanup to our contractor customers. When they are finished with a job, we will come out to the job site and return any excess materials. If we had shipped a box of 25 items, and two items are left, we’ll pick up those two unused items,” Netherton explained.

Graybar simultaneously maintains both internal and customer-facing perspectives on sustainability, which to an electrical distributor in the energy solutions market, is an exceedingly practical and highly successful frame of reference.

Regarding the internal view, Graybar’s Sustainability Statement says, in part, “As we strive to keep our Company strong and healthy for future generations, we shall also do our part to preserve our environment.”

And with regard to the company’s view of customers’ sustainability, Mansfield summarized: “Our goal is to increase our customers’ energy efficiency today and into the future while extending the life of their facilities and reducing maintenance costs.”

Jan Niehaus is president of Communication by Design (communicationbydesign.net) and an active member of numerous environmental and building industry organ-izations. She can be reached at Jan@CommunicationByDesign.net.

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