Collaboration with the supply chain base can help retailers become more sustainable as well as reduce costs.
During a session focusing on supply chain at the World Retail Congress held in Barcelona last week, retailers Argos and DSGi discussed how measures to use their distribution fleets more efficiently led to major cost savings as well as reductions in CO2 usage.
Both companies reported how they have increased the use of multi-deck trailers to extend the amount of space occupied in the trucks. Rerouting runs and backhauling have also been employed.
DSGi director of logistics Sean Feeney described how the company’s new chief executive John Browett has transformed the logistics operation using its home delivery service. Deliveries are now in timed slots and a charge for removing old appliances has been scrapped – instead these are taken away for recycling. 
But while the new set-up provides better service for customers and has slashed the number of complaints, its cost has been reduced 18 per cent, with fewer deliveries failing.
Argos head of supply operations Duncan Kendal described a process with one of its bed suppliers whereby air is removed from mattresses before transport, thereby reducing them to one inch deep and consequently cutting the lorry space they occupy, the air is then put back in prior to delivery to customers. He added that while this particular instance was supplier led, the impetus for a more sustainable approach to supply chains is generally coming from retailers.
Chairman Martin Christopher, professor of marketing and logistics at Cranfield University, suggested that a return to more “local for local” sourcing was vital for the good of the environment. However, Kendal said this was impractical given the dramatic reduction in the supply base in the UK.