Many captains of industry share the environmentalist’s vision of a greener future. STUART MOIR looks at the relationship recently forged between Mercedes Benz Commercial Vehicles and Fast ‘n Fresh, a champion of environmental sustainability in the retail sector. “The transport sector plays a key role in today’s globalised economy. To avoid more pressure on the environment, CO2 emissions will need to be further reduced and commercial vehicles must become even more efficient,” says Dr Hansgeorg Niefer, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA).
It is this thinking that led to the development of a collaborative project between MBSA and Fast ‘n Fresh, a member of the Imperial Logistics group. The aim of the initiative is to ensure that all deliveries for Woolworths, one of South Africa’s leading retailers, are undertaken by way of an environmentally sustainable distribution network know as an eco-chain.
Essentially, the eco-chain project seeks to reduce Woolworths’ carbon footprint by minimising emissions throughout its delivery network: from vehicle supplier to logistics company, retail branch and, finally, the consumer.
“This project provides us with an ideal opportunity – in collaboration with Imperial Logistics through Fast ‘n Fresh – to bring about a significant reduction in the Woolworths distribution network’s fuel consumption, with obvious benefits for the environment,” says Kobus van Zyl, vice-president of Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s commercial vehicles wing.
An outstanding example of MBSA’s commitment to a greener future is its Euro 3 engine, which can be run on a 5% biodiesel blend. According to Van Zyl, all new MBSA trucks are now available with the Euro 3 as standard. The low-sulphur diesel necessary to operate MBCV’s Euro 4 and 5 engines is not yet widely available in this country.
In preparation for the implementation of the Woolworths eco-chain concept, towards the end of 2009 Imperial Logistics took delivery of 20 Actros Euro 3 units for incorporation into its existing Fast ‘n Fresh fleet. Imperial Logistics has been using high-quality biodiesel blends in this fleet for a number of years, resulting in a lower carbon footprint and substantial savings. “Keeping costs as low as possible is a decisive factor in the competitiveness of transport operations. Fuel efficiency is particularly important, especially during economically difficult times such as these,” says Van Zyl.
Because fuel consumption also impacts upon the carbon footprint we leave behind, MBSA is committed to supporting commercial vehicle customers through driver training and other measures to help improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Systems such as FleetBoard and other technological advancements that monitor driver performance have been developed to complement the training process.
As part of the Woolworths eco-chain initiative, the Fast ‘n Fresh fleet will also use AdBlue – an exhaust gas treatment fluid – which will be introduced to its vehicles’ fuel on a controlled basis and is expected to significantly help combat excessive emissions .
“We are encouraged by Woolworths’ unequivocal resolve to make environmental sustainability a key aspect and benefit of retailing in South Africa,” says Van Zyl. “This shows how a company trading in both conventional and organic vegetables, fruits and related products can run its business in a way that is environmentally friendly, reinforcing the idea that nature’s bounty is a gift deserving of respect.”
The Woolworths eco-chain project is but one example of key MBSA Actros, Axor and Atego commercial vehicle customers in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) market with green mindsets. Ensuring that all its commercial vehicles are available with engines that can meet clients’ increasingly strict contractual requirements for environmental sustainability is therefore of the utmost importance to MBSA.