It's trendy to be earth-friendly nowadays. Sustainability has become a green flag waved enthusiastically by most U.S. companies. But mixed in with these newly-minted corporate environmentalists are a handful of firms that began their eco-journey long before it became fashionable.
Publix Super Markets is one of those companies.
"We were thinking green before it was cool to be green," says Maria Brous, spokesperson for Publix, based in Lakeland, FL. "For instance, our recycling efforts began more than three decades ago."
Indeed, the company's efforts in this regard are well-known within the grocery industry. They also pre-date the current concern over global warming that has spurred on so many companies in recent years. It's not surprising that the actions of a well-known and influential grocery chain make for a worthwhile case study in corporate sustainability.
While the retailer has not?yet set any qualitative goals or published a report, it is currently working on measuring various environmental impacts, setting goals and developing a sustainability reporting format. Actions, the saying goes, speak loud than words.
"Publix has always been committed to the responsible use of environmental resources," explains Brous. "Our continued success depends upon sustaining our environment, the people in our company and communities and our business."
Interestingly, several words standout in Brous' statement of the chain's goals: "Publix is devoted to the highest standards of stewardship for our stockholders and to being involved as responsible citizens in our communities. We are intolerant of waste."
Stewardship, responsibility, waste intolerance. These have been company cornerstones for a long time. The corporate commitment is manifested in everything from warehousing to store and fleet operations.
Here is a look at several areas of sustainability at the company:
Warehouses: Lighting, always a source of energy and financial drain, is being reduced in both cases as Publix is actively conducting retrofits for energy-efficient bulbs within its warehouses. Water, another commodity too-often wasted, is being conserved by the chain in an interesting way: Publix car wash stations, located within warehousing and distribution centers, run on 70 percent reclaimed water.
And there are more plans in the works.
"In limited supply, we use reusable plastic pallets as opposed to wood pallets and are continuing to work on the expansion of this practice," Brous says. "Currently, research into the use of LED lights for docks and trailer lights is underway."
Efficient vehicles: Publix works diligently with truck manufacturers to get the highest miles per gallon possible for all of its delivery vehicles. In a span of less than two years, the company has decreased truck miles by more than 28,000 per week; greenhouse gas emissions have been slashed by about 2,500 tons.
Brous comments on the company's transportation practices: "Truck routes have been examined to reduce empty miles on the road, wear and tear on vehicles and increase fuel savings. Publix changed the way we load our trailers to put more items on each truck and increase efficient use of truck space."
The company has 1,400 cars and light trucks in its fleet and is moving to using the most efficient traditional car models in the future. It has also been adding more gas-electric hybrids, with 141 fuel efficient company cars currently in service. There are more on the way.
Recently, Publix enhanced transportation by deploying the Transportation Lifecycle Management (TLM) suite from Manhattan Associates Inc., Atlanta. The solution enables the chain to cut costs more effectively and make environmentally-conscious transportation decisions. This includes replenishing the store and warehouse, manufacturing raw materials and transferring products among facilities through both the company's private fleet and contracted carriers.