It’s hard to walk more than a few blocks in Midtown without passing a Subway, so even though an announcement that the chain has opened its first “Subway Eco-Store” (no word yet on whether Subway has applied to trademark the term) originates from Florida, the news has much broader implications for sandwich lovers everywhere. Subway worked with USGBC to open the store in Kissimmee, which features efficient HVAC systems, LED interior and exterior signage, and recycled-content building materials and furnishings. It intends to compare the performance of the Eco-Store with other conventional Subway stores in Florida, but is also planning open more Eco-Stores that will all seek an unspecified LEED rating. Subway’s announcement follows similar efforts from Pizza Fusion, a Florida-based chain that partnered with CB Richard Ellis back in August.
Most significantly, Subway has also recognized the difficulty inherent in the franchise business model for many franchisees to voluntarily incorporate sustainable practices in their operations. For example, franchise agreements generally require franchisees to build, stock, and operate their stores within a very strict contractual framework. Subway’s franchisee-controlled Independent Purchasing Cooperative (which sources all products and negotiates all contracts for Subway franchisees) is working with the company to review those products and establish sustainable alternatives. In addition, Subway now requires all of its vendors to comply with fair labor practices and perform Good Agricultural Practices (“GAP”) audits for food safety. As someone who eats Subway quite frequently I’m pleased to see that the chain is taking a leadership role in adapting the franchise business model for sustainable purposes.