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C&S Expands Environmental Program

Since coming to C&S Wholesale Grocers in 2007 as executive vice president, operations, Scott Charlton has helped oversee the Keene, N.H.-based wholesaler's expanded sustainability program.

“We felt it was important to participate, not in a novel way, but to have a serious focus and effort around C&S's role in helping to improve conditions in the environment,” said Charlton, who had previously spent 27 years with Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., another company conscious of its effect on the environment.

Last year, privately held C&S, the nation's largest grocery wholesaler with $19.3 billion revenues in fiscal 2009, formally announced that it planned to “significantly increase use of environmentally responsible initiatives” in its operations in an effort to reduce the company's carbon footprint. Charlton said that this has required a “significant capital investment, but we're confident of the ROI for each project.”

For example, over the past year and one-half, C&S has been able to increase the fuel efficiency of its fleet by ½ mile per gallon. “We travel about 2.2 million miles per week, so this is a substantial impact,” said Charlton.

Energy auditing of its warehouses has also played an enlarged role at C&S in recent times. In addition, the wholesaler is auditing the efficiency of its refrigeration systems as well as the overall efficiency of its warehouse operations, making the buildings more air-tight. At its distribution centers in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, C&S is taking advantage of local hydroelectric power to generate 40% of the energy needed there.

On the recycling side, C&S has increased the amount of material it recycles by about 50% over the past few years, said Charlton.

The company recycles 14,474 tons of cardboard, 260 tons of paper and 3,757 tons of plastic annually.

C&S is also seeking to make an impact on the environment outside of its direct operation through a partnership with The Conservation Fund, Arlington, Va., a non-profit land conservation organization. For three years, the wholesaler has worked via the Fund's Go Zero program to calculate the carbon emissions from its corporate headquarters (including employee commuting) and a percentage of two warehouse facilities, and offset them with donations that have helped plant more than 14,300 native trees in three national wildlife refuges in the Gulf Coast region. C&S also made donations to non-profit groups to help the recovery in the Gulf region following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform in April.

For its concerted effort to improve the environment through internal changes and an outside partnership, C&S Wholesale Grocers has been selected as the winner of SN's 2010 Sustainability Excellence Award in the wholesaler category.


In improving the efficiency of its fleets, C&S has invested in Xata onboard computers that limit truck idling times to five minutes and set RPMs. The company also uses dynamic routing systems from Manhattan Associates and Manugistics that optimize delivery routes to its independent and chain retail customers and minimize miles traveled. Also important is a greater awareness of tire pressures and the air dam settings that direct air flow over the trailer.

“We are using technology effectively as well as training and awareness” to improve mileage rates and save fuel, said Charlton. In a 12-month period between 2008 and 2009, the company saved an estimated 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

C&S, which runs more than 50 locations in 12 states, is employing electrical infrared scans of its properties to detect electrical or mechanical problems that would impact the efficient use of power. “We scan the units to make sure that power distribution is effective and that we're not wasting any power,” he said. The company is also auditing propane, natural gas and water usage,

In its refrigerated buildings, the wholesaler is examining refrigeration systems to ensure that they are starting up properly - that “not all motors are on at the same time and we're getting the highest level of efficiency with the lowest consumption of power,” said Charlton.

At all warehouses, C&S has been improving efficiencies by installing insulated dock doors that have a high “R-value” to maintain temperature and reduce energy costs. The company is also making sure compressed air systems are leak-tight and putting in rapid roll doors that “roll up and down quickly and keep more chilled air inside,” he said. In addition, devices have been installed that shut off the lights in aisles when there is no active traffic.

“Our commitment to sustainability is accelerating,” said Charlton. “We realize the importance to the environment and to the world. But it's going to take everybody to do their part to make a differerence.”