When considering how you are helping the environment by greening your operation, it is now no longer enough to just look at LED lighting and to add solar panels to your warehouse roof.

Many buildings simply can’t support the weight of the panels and may already have skylights for natural lighting, which could be argued are better environmentally than low-energy lights.

When judging our very own Confex Green Wholesaler Awards, which are now in their fifth year, we put each business into context and look at what extra steps the business has been implementing to lower its operational impact, improve employee and customer experience, and develop plans for long-term stability and growth.

Government grants

We have seen great use of government grants – it amazes us that more businesses do not look into this cost-saving option – as well as innovative use of shelving systems and different approaches to transport management, taking into account the profile of the products and the maintenance logistics of the fleet.

Interestingly, all our award winners show a common trait – they have extraordinary strength in the management of their businesses. To effect change within any business, it must be driven from the top down, and we find this is even more prevalent when it comes to implementing a green ethic within a wholesale operation. If the principles are sustainable, then the savings will be organic.

Support local produce

Take Stuart Lane of 2017 retail wholesaler winner Lansdell Soft Drinks. He actively promotes the uptake of local produce – cutting down on food miles, while encouraging his supply chain to try sustainable brands and ranges. Lansdell’s office heating system has been upgraded to ensure its optimal efficiency, working hours have been adjusted to suit staff, especially weekend hours, and events are planned to encourage team morale.

Ryan Thompson, of Thompsons Foodservice, which was our overall winner this year, has already had photovoltaic panels fitted, an electric car charger added on-site, has had newer and more efficient refrigeration plants installed, and has created a café-diner area serving value daytime meals for the local community. He has created local employment through the expansion of the opportunities in his business. Rather than awarding them to large national businesses, he gives service contracts and construction and maintenance work to local traders.

Leverage green initiatives for PR

Many wholesalers may already be doing the same, but are you using this as positive PR when talking to your customers or pitching for contracts?

A vital element of being a great green wholesaler is recycling. Separate bins for different types of waste should be standard, while massive savings can be made by using your delivery vehicles to back-haul to the waste depot directly. Many of our wholesalers offer a collection service to their customers when the volumes do not warrant recycling firms collecting from them directly.

Solve waste collection costs

Do you have a policy for short-dated and out-of-date stock? Donating to the local homeless shelter or a local charity is enormously fulfilling, as well as saving on waste collection costs. Driving efficiencies through all aspects of your business will make you greener, while adding to your bottom-line profit.      

What is even more impressive is that all our Confex Green Wholesaler champions are not national concerns with huge turnovers. In fact, none of our winners even have the resources for a marketing department, yet they are implementing these changes through genuine desire, driven by a strong social conscience.

This is why we celebrate our green wholesalers by helping to raise awareness of the work going on at ground level, while sharing best practice across our membership to ensure wholesale’s sustainability for future generations.

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