Supermarkets are going to be forced to adapt to using a range of delivery methods to meet sustainability goals, according to a Sainsbury’s executive.
Speaking at the eDelivery stage at InternetRetailing Expo, online operations development manager Max Conrad said the time when one solution would fit all delivery situations had passed due to a combination of legislation and customer pressure.
Conrad said the diesel van had until now been effective at meeting the requirements of an extremely complex business.
“We’re trying to deliver three different temperatures of products in a five-minute window, offering tens of thousands of products and our drivers are brand ambassadors.”
However, this was changing. Conrad cited the proliferation of low emission zones in areas of the UK including London and Oxford as one pressure, alongside increasing demand from customers for sustainability.
“Customers will switch out of your brand if they don’t see it as environmentally friendly,” he said.
He highlighted statistics showing how other sectors have made “substantial strides” in reducing emissions while transport has not. This is important because transport is becoming the retailer’s responsibility, he says.
The supermarket has run trials of electric bicycles with ecargobikes.com but also examined more efficient ways to use existing delivery infrastructure. One of these was green delivery slots, where a customer can select a slot where a van was already in the area in order to make the delivery more efficient.
Other initiatives have included generating solar energy through panels on the roofs of stores as well as switching all lights to LEDs.
Conrad highlighted a range of solutions including hybrid vehicles, electric vans, hydrogen fuel cells and electric bicycles but noted that many of them have limitations. For example, there are no commercially viable hybrid vans on the market while bikes have more limited payloads and may mean more journeys. The diesel van might still have a place delivering to the Scottish highlands but not in central London.
“But now we will need a mixture of delivery solutions potentially from the same location or serving different territories.
“That’s what we have to get our heads round. How do we do this without creating another level of complexity? It’s not just practical but algorithmic.”