Supplier helps Waitrose find a cool solution

1 April 2011

1 April 2011 | Lindsay Clark

Waitrose procurement team has secured supplier investment to develop new refrigeration technology that avoids using a lot of harmful chemicals.

A water-and-propane-based system is being introduced to in-store refrigeration to help reduce the company’s environmental impact. Waitrose committed to stop using the alternative, hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HFC), for refrigeration in all new and refitted shops from 2010.

Mark Ryce, head of commercial and construction supply chain with the John Lewis Partnership, which owns the supermarket, said: “When we looked at our carbon emissions, aside from energy and fuel, the biggest area we needed to look at was harmful refrigerant gases. Our engineering team came to the conclusion that the only way we were going to deal with this was to remove them.”

Speaking at the Sustainable Purchasing and Supply Summit in London yesterday, he said that by combining the new technology with building heating and air conditioning at the design stage, Waitrose was able to create a “cost-neutral solution”.

“To do that we needed new manufacturing lines to build the type of refrigeration cabinets we required. We needed chiller plants to be used in a way that they had never been used in food retail, and we needed designers, contractors and consultants with open minds to pull all this together with us,” Ryce said. “We achieved that because our suppliers recognised how important our sustainability objectives were to us.”

Ryce said that the supplier had to understand why it was worth making the investment in the new technology. “They understood our environmental objectives and it was an innovation worth investing in.”

In its 2010 CSR report, the John Lewis Group said it was the first major UK food retailer to commit to stop using HFCs for refrigeration in all new and refitted shops from 2010. It said the water-and-propane-based, natural refrigerant uses 20 per cent less energy compared with an equivalent shop operating with traditional systems. The new approach will be rolled out to all its shops by 2020, the report said.

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