Green credentials will help win new contracts

With wholesalers watching every penny of costs, more and more are finding that doing their bit for the environment is also good for their bank balances. Optimising use of a lorry fleet or cutting the amount of electricity used at a depot can help to minimise a company’s impact on the environment, but it will also reduce the bills too.

And as the FWD chief executive James Bielby points out in his review this month (page 8), pressure from the Government to cut carbon emissions is set to increase as it looks to industry to help meet its carbon reduction targets.Companies which do not consider this area will end up literally paying the penalty.

In addition, companies competing for contracts with local and national government are finding their policies on carbon emissions are one of the priorities when the tender is considered.

Booker is one company which has made sustainability a priority. It has achieved the Carbon Trust standard, which involves a rigorous audit of a company’s carbon footprint and a commitment to cut it.

Operations director Bryn Satherley says: “Government is already putting green credentials near the top of its list of requirements when it is putting contracts out to tender and the private sector is beginning to follow. It means we are able to tick that box on many tenders we are going for, and companies which are not taking this up as an issue are going to fall by the wayside.”

Booker has appointed a sustainability manager, Cath Marston, to drive it through the Features > Business, and has backed this up with a green champion at each of its 173 depots and six regional green managers. All the champions and their depot managers have completed training which covers different types of recycling and energy saving.

One of the champions responsibilities will be spearheading a Booker Energy Saving Switch Off Week, with posters reminding colleagues to switch off equipment such as computers, printers, fans and lights when they finish work. Satherley believes a saving of 3% of electricity costs could be achieved.

One of its biggest initiatives involves recycling customers’ cooking oil. They can either bring it into the depot and receive a 10p per litre credit note, or they can phone for free collection. Since July 2008, 600,000 litres have been recycled into sustainable bio-fuel, and it is used to provide power for Booker’s Hatfield site.

Satherley says: “We had a back-up generator at Hatfield which was lying idle because of the reliability of the UK power supply. Now we use it full time using the bio-fuel and it supplies about 40% of the site’s electricity. We looked into using it in lorries but it was more expensive than using it to power the RDC.”

Booker has also worked with the IGD’s ECR initiative to develop a carbon reduction model for transport. It allows anyone involved in logistics to calculate the most efficient way to transport products taking into account aspects such as different types of transport and the routes used. Backhauling, and moving some in-bound deliveries to rail where possible, have also been used to minimise truck mileage.

Satherley says that increasing Booker’s delivery capabilities has also helped to take 800,000 miles of customers’ journeys off the road.

In addition to the easily measurable ‘wins’ such an approach brings there are less tangible benefits too, argues Cath Marston. She says: “It gives our customers another selling point. Many of them are coming into our branches and asking us what we are doing and that is because their customers are asking them.”

Taking action on sustainability is not only for the biggest players such as Booker, as Today’s member Wanis demonstrates. It is based in east London, and took the opportunity to introduce a range of carbon-saving elements when it moved from its old premises into a pound;17m custom-built cash and carry and distribution depot to make way for building work on the 2012 Olympics.

Depot manager Kapil Wadhwani says that some of the depot’s features would only be introduced by other wholesalers if they were renovating premises or building new ones, but others were simple to implement. For instance, recycling of plastics, cardboard and paper has been introduced to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and waste compactors also reduce landfill costs. The depot’s offices also have PIRs (passive infrared sensors) which switch off lights when people are not at their desks, helping to reduce electricity costs.

One of the most successful and simple innovations has been a green travel scheme encouraging staff to cycle to work, which involves providing cycle sheds and showers and contributions towards the cost of bikes. Wadhwani says more than 10% of the workforce has signed up, including the MD, and it has increased the community feeling within the workforce as well as keeping people fit.

When it came to designing the new depot lighting was one of the major considerations. The depot makes much greater use of skylights than most depots which brings a range of benefits. From a sustainability point of view it reduces consumption of electricity needed for artificial lighting, and provides some solar heating in winter, but it also gives a better environment for staff and customers. Lighting engineers also advised the company that fluorescent tube lighting would be more economical than the sodium lights used in most depots, and a master lighting system ensures that all lights are switched off at the end of the day. Wadhwani says that with hindsight he would also have introduced PIR into the company’s picking warehouse,

The building also has more cutting edge environmental measures such as solar heating of water and rain water harvesting for toilet flushing. However the jury is still out on one of the most innovative features, its ground source heat pump. This runs water deep underground where it is heated by the Earth’s natural energy, and it is then pumped back to the surface where it provides ‘free’ heating for the office. But Wadhwani says that the initial cost, plus the energy required the pump the water to the surface, means it may not be any cheaper than conventional heating.

He agrees with Bryn Satherley that sustainability is becoming more of an issue and says the NHS asked to see Wanis’ environmental plan when they tendered for a contract. He also praises his local authority, Waltham Forest, which he says has been helping businesses in the borough to calculate their carbon footprint and to develop plans to reduce them.

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3663 crowned Green Wholesaler of the Year at the 2009 Grocer Gold Awards

3663’s approach to sustainability is led by a Sustainability Board, which is chaired by the chief executive and consists of staff who all volunteer their time to be part of the programme.

3663 has retained ISO 14001 accreditation for sound environmental management across all of its depots and offices for the past seven years and is opening a new flagship depot in Paddock Wood which will feature: solar power energy, rain water harvesting for vehicle washing and utilisation of solar thermal energy for the production of hot water to reduce carbon emissions.

The company also runs a waste oil recycling scheme which turns used cooking oil from customers and suppliers into bio-diesel that fuels 75% of its fleet offering a sustainable delivery solution to customers.

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