LAS VEGAS — It's not likely that you'll see a wind turbine swirling in a Winn-Dixie parking lot anytime soon. Instead, the retailer who emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy three years ago is sticking to more modest sustainability projects that contribute to improvements for people, planet and profit, Wes Bean, senior director of strategic sourcing for the chain, told attendees at FMI 2010 here last week.
“What you have to do is find within your financial footprint what is the right business case to focus on,” said Bean. “Our focus is very much on sustainability built by sound business cases in a rational payback period.”
After setting its sights on reducing miles driven by the company's trucks, Winn-Dixie attained a 2.3-million-mile reduction equal to $1.3 million in fuel savings, according to Bean. Route optimization and a reduction in empty trailer miles played a large role, but packaging efficiencies also contributed.
A 20% reduction in Hamburger Helper box size meant 500 fewer trucks on the road annually. Winn-Dixie also saves waste hauling costs now that it diverts 2.9 million pounds of food, that would otherwise end up in landfills, to the plates of those served by Feeding America.
“The bottom line of profitability is being able to show a pure financial benefit and at the same time make a positive impact,” noted Bean.
Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., which likewise won't be installing any wind turbines in the near future, according to Michael Hewett, manager of environmental services for the chain, is driving environmental change through an alliance with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. The NGO is auditing its suppliers in an attempt to reverse overfishing.
“Eventually, you'll be able to visit our website, click on any fish for sale and it will link you to the Sustainable Fisheries risk assessment for that fish,” Hewett said.
Next quarter, Publix will work with SFP to identify issues that need resolving. Rather than simply discontinue overfished stock, the retailer will work to bring about sustainable change.
“We know that if we don't buy that fish anymore it will still be caught, so what we want to do is partner with the Ocean Conservancy, which has a great reputation for bringing fisheries together with legislators to ensure those stocks are fished sustainably.”
Other retailers cited for their sustainability efforts included Supervalu, since it's derived both cost savings and profits from the sale of $4 million worth of reusable bags.
“They're adding millions to the bottom line in net margins while reducing reliance on plastic bags,” said Bean. He also provided as an example three FMI members who collectively made more than $50 million from recycling old corrugated cardboard in 2006.