International Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Carbon Emission Reduction and Grocery Industry


The grocery industry is a key energy sector in the sense of the consumption and the emissions resulting from it. It is estimated that 17% of the green house gas emissions can be traced to the food and the drink industry. It is also official that the problem of carbon emission and the resulting climatic change is the greatest long-term issue that faces humanity. With this in perspective, it is no wonder that there are frame works being developed that will enhance efficiency in the management of transport, material and process that are used in the grocery industry. In order to make such arrangements and frameworks sustainable there has been witnessed the collaboration between various stakeholders of the supply chain. The initiatives that have come range from transportation to refrigeration and are all playing a hand in minimizing the carbon emission attributed to the grocery industry.

The first question addresses the carbon reduction strategies that have been implemented by various players in the grocery industry. The strategies cover the major areas of carbon emission that are associated with the industry like transportation, refrigeration and in design as well as construction. The issue of collaboration in sustaining the logistics that have been initiated in carbon reduction is brought out where several examples are given that seek to reduce the carbon footprint through efficient transportation systems and implementing technologies that improve the processes in the industry using less energy and reducing carbon emission.

Question one

The Transport Industry

Vans, trucks and other motor vehicles are used in the delivery of grocery produce to shoppers’ residences. However, the emissions from such vehicles, which usually use diesel, have been noted as being on the increase, thereby leading to an urgent need for changes in the industry. With this in mind, most businesses in the grocery industry have changed their older commercial vehicle fleets and exchanged them for electric vans and trucks. Such vehicles promote the ‘green’ initiative since they do not lead to the emission of green house gases such as carbon. In fact, many states promote such initiatives through tax reductions on these vehicles with these incentives being additionally beneficial to the grocery companies.

Some of the prominent companies involved in home shopping delivery that have switched to electric vans and trucks include Sainsbury, which intends to have over fifty vans dedicated to providing its London customers with a constant and efficient flow of groceries. When this system is fully implemented, this will become one of the largest fleets of electric vans in the world. Such actions have been undertaken by other companies including John Lewis, which has undertaken a contract for transport vehicles having a Smith Edison electric van chassis. These electric minibuses offer shoppers a new way to travel to the company’s stores on the West End of London, thereby reducing the amount of emission that would have otherwise been present.

The use of electric vans has been lauded not only for reducing the amount of emissions from diesel-run vehicles, but also for the reduced cost of running the older vehicles. However, critics and businesses argue that there are various drawbacks into implementing the new system. The main concern is that of the expensive nature of the vans, which cost up to three times more than diesel and petroleum vans. However, with recent changes involving the lowering of taxes on electric vans, this problem is set to be averted, with an overall reduction in cost of the electric vehicles. Another potential concern is that of the increased use of electricity by such vehicles. Critics have pointed out that an increased utilization of energy is merely diverting the problem, as it is an additional weight on the currently over-utilized natural resources.


Another way of reducing emissions is through refrigeration where 50% of the energy use is directed towards cooling. There rules currently seeking to address the types of refrigeration and cooling methods that are used by the stores and other players in this field. The refrigeration capacity influences the potential of carbon emission. For example, one kilogram of refrigerant type R134a has the ability to contribute to global warming through the emission of one kilogram of carbon dioxide. An example of an efficient refrigeration system is the Smartcool Systems that has completed the installation of the conditioning system in the Siantsbury stores in the United Kingdom. The system is able to save 12.3 % kilowatt of electricity for the refrigeration units. Annually the program is expected to reduce the emission of carbon by 202,844 pounds (Wisner, Keah-Choon &Leong 2009).

A new approach in the grocery industry is that off environmental stores. An example is one such store is that operated by the retailer SaintsBury. The company owns several environmental stores. The features that are embedded in the construction of the store are directed at achieving 90% minimum construction waste avoidance from landfill. The amount of gas and electricity that is used is reduced at least by 25% as well as the reduction of water usage. The stores have to comply with restrictions such as lower Global warming refrigerant system, a heat recovery system that ensures cold air is prevented from entering while the warm air is prevented from getting lost. Apart from that there are other initiatives geared to reducing the carbon emission by the use of low carbon construction materials. Examples of such materials are the eco-friendly floor screed- 80% glass floor base. In addition, instead of using the normal plaster in construction there is the use of the Ferma-cell that is made of recycled plasterboard. As mentioned earlier there is the reduction of the air heating energy costs in the environmental store. This is attained by the weir screens and the night blinds that are placed on all; the chillers. Their function is to stop the cold air seeping out with a result of 5% reduction in energy requirements of the store.

The other notable initiative is that of using two sided thermal printers for issuing out receipts in various grocery stores. The notion behind this is the reduction of the paper that is used in printing receipts that will translate to less trees and more use of emitted carbon. The printers are able to use 40% less paper. In addition, there is the advocating that the motors and the drives that are used in the grocery industry through food processes have their speed reduced to save the energy consumption that is accredited to them. There are incentives that are directed to reduce the amount of energy that is used during the busiest seasons of the grocery industry. They include the use of see through solar panels in the roofs that will produce the energy that is used in the summer times and during the day. Coincidentally, these are the busiest times of the grocery stores. There is large scale transport issues that need to be addressed in the grocery industry. The current shift is towards the use of electric trains rather than the use of cars. In addition, there are instances where some grocery stores have put energy generating pads on their parking grounds. These pads are able to generate energy on being pressed by a moving car and the electric energy that is obtained is used for in store purposes. This case can be illustrated by the U.K retailer, Saints bury.

There are plans to reduce carbon emission from the distribution fleet that are used by some of the industries players such as Tesco, Saints Bury and Cadbury Schweppes. This is done by switching to renewable energy sources and other hybrid innovations that use both the renewable and the non-renewable. Other dimensions that have been under consideration are the packaging where by the use of packaging material that can not be recycled is going to be done away with, in addition the over packaging of some products will be eliminated. The other example is the development of biodegradable wrappers (Wang 2009).

Question two

            Various initiatives and activities have been undertaken with the aim of reducing the carbon emission and the green house effect in general. There are summits that are aimed at sharing the latest technologies that involve data modeling and carbon reduction innovations. For example is the Carbon Footprint Supply Chain Summit. In such a summit the threats that the environmental dilemma poses to the industry was discussed and the major breakthroughs that the industry has. The issue of the intricate balance that needs to be maintained between the initiatives and remaining competitive as well as effective in the industry is considered (Gower, 2008).In the past several months, initiatives that are geared toward the reduction have been undertaken through various collaborations. The initiatives have involved different players in the grocery supply chain. For instance, there was collaboration between the Tesco retail chain and its wine producer and supplier JF Hillebrand. The two developed a more friendly way of transporting wine by putting the masses on rail instead of road.

In particular, the data sharing and analysis is important since it regards the huge data loads that are needed to record and study the poor emission of carbon in the respective operations that are involved in the grocery industry. The supply chain of the grocery industry runs the risk of being disrupted given the climatic changes that are inherent. Most of the times if the industry does not take initiative the government is forced to take initiative and most of the times, it’s radical and affects the industry greatly. For instance, in Australia the initiatives that the government implemented are risk to the industry since they reduce the competitiveness of the grocery industry thus bring into danger the 200,000 jobs that the industry employees (Gattorna 2009).

Collaborative tactics are useful in reducing the carbon emission that is from the distribution chains.  For instance, the Sainsbury grocery corporation has collaborated with its smaller food supplier Organix where there was reduction of 200,000 miles per year by rescheduling the transportation routes and better vehicle management. This is usually after changing the attitudes that are held by the consumers and meeting their needs. The collaborative effort kicks in where there is the need to move away from the incremental improvements and embrace a more active approach of undertaking a carbon investigation of the supply chains. The crucial step lies in tackling indirect emissions and the carbon footprint of products across the supply chain. The carbon footprint implies the amount of carbon that is attributed to one product. The carbon footprints include all the emissions that are traceable to one product through all the process including the supply chain. From the holistic view of the carbon chain cycle it is rather evident that all the carbon emission doesn’t happen in isolation but is the interaction of different supply chains. The collaborative effort can help the companies trace the area where the carbon emission is most and focus on those that it is least. This particularly important on realizing that every carbon emission is the result of trying to meet the consumers needs.

In view of that, firms that are involved in the grocery industry need to embrace the framework of indicating the carbon footprint since it will be a representation of the products contribution to the solution of reduction of green house effect. One method of reducing the carbon footprint is through better transportation such as the collaboration between Nestle and United Biscuits Where the Nestle Company tied 80% of its deliveries to return journeys that are made by the United biscuits Lorries. After a delivery of biscuits the lorries used to return empty but now will deliver some of the nestle products. The supply line approach has the ability to unlock important emission issues that lead to the reduction of the financial costs that are associated with high carbon footprints. This is because the question of where they will focus their efforts is critical. That why a collaborative effort between organizations will help, firms in the sector prioritize their carbon and environmental initiatives. As a sector, the firms are able to collect the latest methodologies for measuring and comparing across the vast types of product line and business practices in the grocery business. There is the deciphering of the latest innovation in disposing waste, recycling and packaging and their applicability to the supply chain (Hoffman 2007). In a nutshell, the collaborative efforts between the organizations that are in the grocery industry are facilitated to know the best method to priotize carbon and environmental agendas concerning the supply chain (House of Commons Environmental Audit Com 2009).

It is quite clear that issue of carbon reduction is compounded by other factors that seek to influence the supply chain like economic trends, price levels and fuel. When the organizations cooperate, they are able to obtain a holistic view of all the factors that can affect the carbon footprint of their products. To achieve absolute reductions in the emission of carbon in the various stages of the business supply chain there needs to be a holistic view that is enhanced by the collaborative forums where ideas are exchanged. The ideas exchanged help establish a connection between different strategies of reducing the carbon emission. The question of how a reduction in carbon emission at one area of the supply chain affects another area is addressed. The possible effects of carbon reduction procedures that are disruptive to the supply chain are also addressed (Manne Alan & Richels 1992).

The other advantage that can be obtained from organizations collaborating is that of dispute and arbitration in situations that are environmental hot spots. An example is the Carbon and environmental footprint supply summit that food and other associated industry players meet to discuss the way forward in issues that regard environmental conflicts. The organizations collectively are able to have a stronger middle ground to such situations if they concern the reduction of carbon. A point that will arise from this is the standard setting that the organizations achieve. As a forum, the organizations will be able to set standard targets for the reduction of the carbon. They will also point out the specific parts of the supply chain that the standards and the targets apply.


The successful interaction with the supply chain by the organization to reduce carbon emission is an experience that can be shared across the grocery industry. The implication is that from the shared experiences the organizations can learn methodologies that can be applied in attaining non-carbon based emission. The aspect of consumers and meeting their needs is observed, as the firms are able to exchange various options used in meeting consumer needs while at the same time reducing the carbon emitted. As a collaboration the various risks and opportunities that are rising due to the carbon emission and the overall greenhouse effect emerge and their consequences on the supply chain









Works Cited

Wisner J.D., T. Keah-Choon, &Leong G K., Principles of supply chain management : a balanced approach , Mason, OH : South-Western Cengage Learning, 2009.

Marshall N. Sustainable Development International.; United Nations Environment Programme Climate action, London, United Nations Environment Programme, 2007.

Hoffman A. J, Carbon strategies: how leading companies are reducing their climate change footprint, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Gattorna J.Dynamic supply chain alignment: a new business model for peak performance in enterprise supply chains across all geographies, Farnham, England; Burlington, Gower Pub., 2009.

Goodall C., How to live a low-carbon life: the individual’s guide to stopping climate change, London: Sterling, VA: Earth scan, 2007.

Wang H., Web-based green products life cycle management systems: reverse supply chain utilization, Hershey: Information Science Reference, 2009.

House of Commons Environmental Audit Com, Environmental Labelling, The Stationery Office/ 2009.

Kornum N., Grocery e-commerce: consumer behaviour and business strategies, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2005.

Gower, G., J., handbook of supply chain management, Aldershot: Gower, 2008

Clarke, G. P., Modelling structural change in the regional grocery sector, Leeds, School of Geography, University of Leeds, 1986.

Lewis P& Killen V., Understanding the UK retail grocery sector, Manchester Business School 1987.

Manne Alan S. & Richels R.G, Buying greenhouse insurance: the economic costs of carbon dioxide emission limits, Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press 1992.

Ridley M. A., Lowering the cost of emission reduction : joint implementation in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998.



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