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Trucking firm lightens its load

Staff Reporter

Innovative environmental strategies that improve business performance -- Winner: Imperial Logistics.

Trucks can be a nuisance to other commuters on the roads, yet without them many supermarket and consumer favourites would not be on the shelves.

“Truck drivers are hugely important for the economy,” said Abrie de Swardt, Imperial Logistics’ marketing director. “They also impact heavily on the environment.”

In an attempt to address this, the company started a “green logistics evolution” for the 5 500-odd trucks it operates. The business strategyfocuses on best practice across its supply chain, delivering operational and economic benefits while limiting carbon footprint and waste, and thereby reducing environmental impacts, said De Swardt.

“We recognise the effects ofclimate change and the desirability of emission reductions as imperative to the continued viability of business. We incorporate identified risks and opportunities relating to climate change into business planning and forecasting models.”

Efficient transport and improved refrigeration address the risks of climate change. Imperial joined the energy-efficiency technical committee run by the National Business Initiative, participates in climate- change business workshops and networks with government authorities on climate change.

Efficient transport is more than beating the clock, said De Swardt, it’s a science. Each fleet has a technical director who ensures that proper route planning cuts down on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as well as costs.

The company reports its carbon footprint to the Carbon Disclosure Project, an independent not-for-profit organisation with the largest database of primary corporate climate change information. It has also invested in the latest European vehicle specifications and three ecoFridge trailers.

“These operate in complete silence—no moving parts, no harmful emissions and absolutely no noise,” said De Swardt. “Due to this trial project, it is anticipated that 596 tonnes of CO2 a year will be eliminated within this supply chain.”

A group sustainability director is responsible for environmental governance and decision-making at board and exco level. The group has also appointed a senior environmental specialist.

“Our strategic commitment to sustainability is being successfully applied on an operational level, making it an active element within the business rather than simply a strategic intent,” said De Swart. “Sustainability is also prioritised in the boardroom, ensuring it remains a strategic imperative driven by the leadership team.”

The largest portion of company costs goes towards fuel—more than 200-million litres of diesel annually- and advanced fuel management systems are deployed throughout operations, De Swardt said. This includes driver training because frequent speed changes and harsh braking are uneconomical. “We also have tracking systems and speed governors,” De Swardt said.

Other environmental measures include the use of biodiesel in some fleets, the responsible disposal of used tyres and oil, and pumping tyres with nitrogen to give them a longer lifespan. Imperial pioneered the concept of “extra distance” with Cardiff and Plymouth universities. It provided a system of measuring and reducing costs and emissions.

The system helped one retailer customer to cut 518 tonnes of CO2 from its supply chain. A manufacturing customer realised a 19% transportation saving and the elimination of 108 tonnes of CO2.

The company also provides customers with options for greening—supply-chain operations that range from small process changes, such as retraining drivers, to substantial capital investments such as setting up green distribution centres.

Within the group, which employs some 16 000 employees, initiatives such as a “green office week” have been introduced to encourage environmentally conscious behaviour at staff level. Borehole water and biodegradable detergents are used to wash vehicles, and the wash water is recycled.

The Greening the Future judges noted that the entry by Imperial Logistics was technical and frank. “It is a strong entry, with a holistic approach to the whole life cycle of its operations. This influences the supply chain and customers,” the judges said. “It is important to address environmental concerns in the transport industry, and Imperial is setting a good benchmark.”

They were also impressed by the positioning of the group’s environmental efforts at the cutting edge of international research, and within the context of realising the millennium development goals.

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