UK food industry on the road to sustainability

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 20th October 2008

Green Earth

The UK’s leading food and consumer goods companies reported last week that an initiative to reduce the environmental impact of transporting food and groceries has removed the equivalent of 53 million journey miles from UK roads.

Over the course of the last year, many household brands have been working together through IGD’s Efficient Consumer Response (ECR UK) initiative on the Sustainable Distribution project.

ECR UK announced that, through measures such as sharing vehicles and more efficient warehousing, the project has surpassed its targeted saving of 48 million miles. The 53 million road miles saved is equivalent to removing 900 lorries from Britain’s roads or conserving 26 million litres of diesel fuel per year.

“These results are a significant achievement for the food industry and demonstrate the determination that exists among manufacturers and retailers to minimise our environmental impact,” IGD President and Nestlé UK Chief Executive, Alastair Sykes, said. “There will always be a need to transport food and grocery items from producers to shoppers, but there is certainly scope to do this more efficiently. This initiative has helped us achieve significant environmental and financial benefits. We are confident it will set the standard for future projects to improve the sustainability of our industry.”

The savings have been generated through a mix of internal projects, and external partnerships between retailers and suppliers. For example, Asda – a prominent UK retailer, and Unilever have worked together to share transport between Unilever’s Doncaster Distribution Centre and Asda’s Washington Distribution Centre. Previously, Unilever delivered their Health & Beauty brands directly to Asda, but now, returning Asda vehicles pass through Doncaster and pick up the products for delivery into Washington. This has reportedly helped take 50,000 miles off the road.

The outputs of the initiative will be shared widely within the industry to encourage improvements from companies of all sizes.

Participating companies currently include the UK’s largest food and grocery retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers listed below:
Asda, Bakkavor, Booker Group, Boots, Brakes, Coca Cola Enterprises, Colgate Palmolive, Compass Group, Coors, Co-operative Group, Dairy Crest Group, Gerber Juice Company, H.J. Heinz Co, Iceland Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg Marketing & Sales Co, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, L’Oreal Golden, Marks & Spencer, Mars (UK), Wm Morrison Supermarkets, Muller Dairy (UK), Musgrave Retail Partners GB, Nestle UK, Northern Foods, Palmer & Harvey McLane, Pepsico UK & Ireland, Premier Foods Group, Procter & Gamble UK, Robert Wiseman & Sons, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco, Unilever UK, United Biscuits and Waitrose.