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For a Greener Supply Chain



Without a doubt, most sane as well as civic and business-minded people are concerned with protecting the environment not only for the benefit of the current inhabitants of the planet but also for future generations.

{mosimage}On the one hand, environmentalists and the "green" movement correctly contend that if governments, industries and individuals pay more attention to their ecological surroundings, we will create a healthier and longer-lasting natural environment.

There is also a practical side to the greening of society and industries – it's financially beneficial to the practitioners.

Earlier this week, WABC Channel 7's Eyewitness News program reported that the Bronx is paving the way for the environmentally-friendly green roof movement in New York City. According to the news report, 14 green roofs, complete with earth, grass, plants and shrubs, are being installed on city-owned and subsidized buildings in that northern New York City borough, including the Bronx County Courthouse.

Experts believe that green roofs can save on energy costs by insulating the upper extremities of the facility and help keep pollutants in check by holding on to storm water runoff during heavy rainfalls. As their popularity grows, it's projected that green roofs will make it more cost-effective for smaller and average homeowners to go green as well.

Distributors stand to benefit in more than one way from environmental awareness.
In our story last week, contributing editor Karen J. Ribler discovered that if Wal-Mart's 110 million customers replaced their ubiquitous 60-watt incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. Experts believe that one CFL in a socket instead of the old-fashioned incandescent bulb would result in enough electricity saved to turn off two entire power plants.

Furthermore, Wal-Mart's accountants did the math associated with changing the retailer's incandescents to energy-efficient CFLs in their 3,000-plus stores and found that the company could save $6 million in electricity bills.

In the past year we have come across out-of-the-box energy-saving initiatives undertaken by savvy distributorships. Dennis Paper and Food Service, Bangor, Maine, (see story) which spent the first nine decades of its existence as a beverage specialist and nonfoods distributor before becoming a broadliner four and a half years ago, demonstrated a high-degree of Yankee ingenuity in dealing with the rising cost of energy. About two years ago, the company established its own power company, Dennis Energy Co.

"It purchases electricity from the power grid much like a power company does. We purchase power on the wholesale market and have taken control of our electrical costs," Tom Gagne, cfo and cio, told ID at the time.

The project did not stop with merely generating its own electricity. Management realized that the cost of a kilowatt of electricity varies throughout the day, with the off hours between 5 PM and 8 AM dramatically lower than peak times.

"So not only are we purchasing electricity from the wholesale market at much cheaper rates than you could from a power company, we've also timed certain operating cycles in our refrigeration equipment so that defrosting takes place at times of the day when electricity costs are lower," Gagne explained. "That's a creative way to manage something that could be considered unmanageable or an expense that you may not consider you have much control over."

The distributorship's innovative approach to solving its energy problem resulted in 20-25% cost savings.

Peter Mouskondis, president of Nicholas & Co., Inc., a family-owned ID Top 50 company in Salt Lake City, told ID (see story) that the company is participating in the local power company's environmentally friendly "green light program." Special light bulbs automatically turn lights on and off depending on human presence in a given area. The move saves the company money while providing more illumination throughout the facility.

We are sure that these are but a few examples of what savvy distributorships are doing to protect the environment and save them money.

In researching other civic-minded topics, like diversity and multiculturalism, for instance, we found that companies with a high degree of awareness about those issues tend to gravitate to like-minded companies when looking for supply-chain business partners. Consequently, we believe that distributorships that demonstrate environmental sensitivity in warehouse design, waste management and even light bulb usage will find upstream and downstream companies that would be more than eager to do business with them.

Our series on the greening of the foodservice supply chain will look at what distributorships, suppliers, operators, architects, waste management firms and consultants have to offer the industry in terms of executable suggestions to improve their facilities, the way they do business and benefit the environment. If you're doing something interesting or have seen something noteworthy, send us an e-mail.

Ultimately, all of this will mean a greener bottom line for you.

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