Sainsbury’s: Business case for green initiatives doesn’t always stack up

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sainsbury

Sainsbury’s: Business case for green initiatives doesn’t always stack up
While electric vans and wind turbines are often seen as ‘totems’ of a retailer’s commitment to the environment, the greenest thing to do is not always what consumers - and the media - think it is, according to the man in charge of Sainsbury’s supply chain.

Speaking at the IGD Convention in London yesterday, Sainsbury's retail and logistics director Roger Burnley said the business case for building windmills in urban environments was not always very strong: “Unless you’re planning to build a store on the top of Helvellyn, it​ [installing wind turbines at supermarkets or depots] basically doesn’t stack up as a sensible thing to do.

“The payback would make your chief finance officer’s eyes water. A more sensible thing to do would be to finance an offshore wind farm.”

Similarly, while Sainsbury’s had invested heavily in electric vehicles – it now has a fleet of 70 for online deliveries – and also runs five vehicles running on methane extracted from landfill sites, most of its progress in reducing emissions in the supply chain had come from a “relentless and conventional drive for efficiency”​, he said.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s had made great strides in reducing its packaging and exploring new formats such as milk in bags and chopped tomatoes in Tetra Pak, he said.

But again, the greenest option was not always obvious, and in many cases, packaging that might appear to be excessive in fact played an important role in protecting products during transit, extending their shelf-life or maintaining their quality or appearance, reducing waste and reducing emissions, he stressed.

“The right thing to do is rarely clear cut. As an industry we must drive the agenda and help to define what is right. Excessive packaging is not in anyone's best interests as it drives costs, but when it is not fit for purpose to protect the product, the consequences are potentially more wasteful."

Related topics: Supply Chain

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