9 June 2023

Sustainability Feature

Consumers have rightly become increasingly engaged in the possible environmental impacts of the products they buy. More than ever they want to see their preferred brands and suppliers taking action to reduce carbon emissions, resource usage and waste to improve sustainability. Businesses across all sectors are responding to this, but also to the lead of government in its drive towards net zero.


As one of the UK’s major logistics providers, Menzies Distribution is a key player in the UK’s supply chain. Our national network and time critical logistics expertise see us play a critical role in providing a sustainable route to market for retail, newstrade and many other sectors. While environmental sustainability wasn’t a recognised imperative when our business was started 190 years ago, recycling and circular processes are and always have been at the core of our business. Working with retailers, newstrade partners and other businesses, we share a long and proud history of innovation to improve both sustainability and efficiency.


What has marked recent years is the speed with which environmental issues have risen up both consumer and boardroom agendas. Menzies is proud to have targeted 2035 for reaching net zero for Scope 1 and 2 emissions – 15 years ahead of the date set in UK legislation. We recognise the scale of the challenge for our business, but we also know it is the right thing to do for our own future success, as well as for our customers and the country as a whole.


Our road to net zero is founded on validated scientific targets under the international Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The strategy to achieve our targets is focused on our fleet, on energy and warehousing and on waste management, recycling and re-use to support the circular economy. Under each of these we have a raft of initiatives to reduce our emissions and environmental impact.


In terms of our fleet, making sure the miles we drive are done in the best way for the planet makes a big difference. By replacing diesel with fully electric vehicles, we now travel over 300,000 miles per year emission free. We started electrifying our fleet by replacing final mile delivery vans and have already delivered 10 million items emission free, but as new technology comes to market we will also be moving at pace away from diesel as the power source for our HGVs.


Meanwhile we are doing all we can to reduce their impact. Advanced route planning technology and pioneering the use of longer semi-trailers means we optimise routes as much as possible. Improvements in vehicle design have made bodywork more aerodynamic and the introduction of air deflectors has reduced vehicle drag by 30%, increasing fuel efficiency by 10-15%. Through our telematics technology we can monitor carbon-inefficient and potentially risky activities, such as harsh acceleration or braking, allowing us to create tailor-made training packages for individual drivers to reduce excess idling and improve carbon efficiency and safety. We are using new fuel additives to reduce particulate emissions and are also looking to trial sustainable next generation fuels such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil.


With a significant property portfolio to support our national operation, our property programme is also playing a big part in our sustainability strategy and move towards net zero. All of our estate is on a 100% green renewable energy tariff for electricity. We have introduced smart LED lighting into our new sites and are retrofitting our older ones. This combines ultra-efficient LEDs with advanced motion sensing control equipment to slash energy usage on lighting by around 70%. By installing solar roof panels at our Wakefield site we now generate 200,000 kwh of renewable energy per year, powering the operation during the day but also returning surplus to the grid, while avoiding over 42 tonnes of CO2 emissions.


To support the continuing expansion of Menzies’ electric vehicle fleet and the adoption of electric vehicles more widely, we are building one of the largest commercial EV charging infrastructures in the UK, with charge points accessible to all. Our charging network includes vehicle-to-grid technology, so that spare charge can be returned to the National Grid when electricity demand is high.


When it comes to waste management, recycling and re-use, a key role for us is to serve the newstrade sector, which has a significant amount of recyclable material. We are proud to help the sector recover, bale and recycle over 26,331 tonnes of material each year, avoiding over 70,000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted were it to end up in landfill. Partnering with a leading paper mill, we are ensuring that 100% of the magazine waste we handle goes to making the paper for future magazines.


Menzies also recycles on behalf of the wider supply chain and we plan to do much more in this area. As logistics partner to leading packaging companies, we move almost 400 million square feet of paper and board every year and so have seen how the move to cardboard packaging and recyclable materials has rapidly accelerated. By creating a specialised sortation centre in Sheffield, we are helping our customers make best use of their own resources and eliminate plastics from the supply chain. To date the centre has diverted over 24 million items from landfill for reuse, avoiding over 8,000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted. Where we can recycle the materials that we use ourselves, we of course do, even upcycling PVC trailer curtains from HGVs.


Improving sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment across every aspect of our business is therefore very much at the centre of our thinking. Leading national and international businesses across our economy – many of which we serve – are also working hard towards a fully sustainable future. Increasingly they are recognising that their logistics partner is a critical element in helping them deliver on their own commitments. Aside from reducing the environmental impact of the delivery of their products, they also want the ability to track and audit emissions on a per package basis, both as a means of engaging with and informing their customers and to measure their progress in meeting their sustainability targets. We very much see this development accelerating and becoming more widespread in the years to come.


Another area we have been developing rapidly and that we believe will play an increasingly important role in the future is consolidation. Today, too many vehicles are delivering different products to the same end user. Consolidation centres – where products are delivered to a hub and sorted for efficient delivery to a single address – can help businesses reduce both costs and environmental impacts.


What is clear to us, despite the cost of living pressures that people are facing, is that taking action to avoid damaging or irreversible climate change is a key priority for the country. As a responsible business – which plans to be around for the next 190 years and far beyond – we must do all we can to help secure a sustainable future for our planet and the generations that follow us.


Learn more about Menzies Distribution being a sustainable business here.

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