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Aligning business and environmental sustainability

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By Lizelle van der Berg, director – GCCA South Africa

Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) members in South Africa are committed to environmentally sustainable operations.

CCS Logistics, Paarden Eiland. Photo by CCS Logistics
CCS Logistics, Paarden Eiland. Photo by CCS Logistics

When it comes to environmental sustainability, we know that certain countries in the world are more advanced than others. In Europe, FMCG companies are putting pressure on the cold storage industry in terms of proving sustainability and environmentally friendly operations.

Although in South Africa we are not yet feeling the same pressure from customers as seen in Europe, minimising the impact on the environment is fast becoming the way of doing business. CCS Logistics and Vector Logistics are two examples of how this is being done, yielding benefits for both business and the environment.

Ina Botha, executive director of CCS Logistics, explains how they strive to improve their environmental performance over time and to initiate projects and activities that will further reduce their impact on the environment. Says Botha, “CCS Logistics is committed to minimising its impact on the environment and supports the reporting on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESGs).”

Their Environmental Management System allows them to measure environmental impacts for all key areas against targets and benchmarks, as well as manage the consumption of non-renewable resources. Their emissions are largely driven by their energy consumption. Therefore, they focus most of their efforts on reducing energy consumption which also has direct cost-saving benefits.

Jaco Ollewagen, Technical Manager of CCS Logistics, explains that their strategy has been to reduce energy consuming loads through a behavioural change of their staff before investing in efficiency improvements that require capital investments. Low-cost methods include targeting user discipline and plant operation, which in some instances already reduced energy consumption by more than 34%. They believe that well-trained staff that are adequately educated about efficient energy use will drive their effort to great lengths.

Ollewagen says, “Establishing environmental committees at each facility empowers team members to contribute by identifying opportunities and implementing new ideas, such as switching off what is not needed and good housekeeping initiatives such as keeping external and cold room doors closed.”

Plant efficiencies included to reduce discharge pressures and, as an added advantage of keeping the doors closed, they were able reduce the defrost requirements which also had a significant impact on energy consumption as well as cooling time. Investments in compressor VFD’s, more efficient evaporator fans, a plant management system and efficient lighting further reduced consumption.

CCS Logistics is excited about the recently launched renewable energy resources (solar) project to supplement power requirement at their Paarden Eiland facility which will lessen the fossil fuel energy dependency from energy generators. The solar project should come into production towards the third quarter of 2021 and will provide about 706MWh/yr. and save about 700 T.CO₂. After the successful implementation of the Paarden Eiland project, they plan to expand their renewable energy resources to bigger sites.

On average their water consumption profile shows that about 80% can be attributed to the evaporative condensers used in the ammonia plants. This forced them to look at ways to increase condenser efficiencies and investing in closed systems at some of their quay-based facilities.

CCS Logistics are looking forward to implementing the first of these at their Namibian facility in the third quarter of the year. Not ignoring the remaining 20% of water consumption, which relates to building use such as cleaning, CCS Logistics further invested in flow limitation devices to reduce waste.

Says Ollewagen: “During the drought in Cape Town, CCS looked at alternative water sources of supply and water treatment systems in several of our facilities. We reduced our use of potable municipal water on average by 49%, which is equivalent to the water use of 4 000 households. The Epping facility’s water consumption is 60% off the grid”. Reusing the runoff water from the defrost process also helped to supplement supply by about 1% and they are currently investigating harvesting water from the large roofs which could yield about 10% in the rainy season.

Vector – going beyond to build a sustainable future. Photo by Vector Logistics
Vector – going beyond to build a sustainable future. Photo by Vector Logistics

Tracking and managing waste forms part of your environmental management responsibilities. By promoting awareness among staff, CCS Logistics not only empower staff to contribute and participate at work but also in their own communities. Their set target is to reduce waste to landfill by 2% each year which they accomplish by separating main waste streams and sending these to be recycled and re-using damaged pallets by reusing undamaged slats in new pallets. Hazardous waste such as used oils are also sent for recycling and over R1-million was invested in replacing equipment using conventional compressor oil with equipment that uses environmentally friendly oils.

Chris Creed, managing director of Vector Logistics, explains that the company strives to provide sustainable, innovative solutions in collaboration with its principals and customers, in line with its commitment to “constantly look beyond what’s now to co-create what’s next”. In so doing, it strives to make the best possible use of its resources – including safeguarding the natural environment.

Says Creed, “Being innovative and creating solutions goes beyond the services we provide, it’s how we approach our relationship with the environment. It means constantly looking for and implementing ways to decrease our carbon footprint, reduce our dependence on scarce natural resources like fossil fuels and fresh water, and contribute to a circular economy where waste is kept out of the environment and its value is retained.”

To this end, Vector has implemented a number of energy, water and waste initiatives which have the potential to drive significant change in the company’s environmental impact. Solar energy is key to Vector’s strategy to reduce electricity usage in its extensive fixed and mobile refrigeration network. Its flagship Peninsula hub in Bellville, Cape Town, recently had a 511kW rooftop solar system installed which was projected to save 742 217 kWh of electricity per annum – 11% of the site’s total power – and to reduce its annual carbon footprint by 706 tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂).

Post installation, its 1 277 solar panels are not only meeting energy yield performance expectations but exceeding them by a further 11%. A similar project is being investigated for Vector’s Roodepoort site in Gauteng, where installation of a 672kW solar system is projected to save approximately 27% of the site’s electricity and the equivalent of 924 tons of CO₂ per year.

At the same time, Vector is considering the installation of solar electric drives on some of its truck refrigeration units, which would help reduce diesel consumption while in transit. (Truck refrigeration units are already run off electrical power rather than the truck engine while loading and unloading). Other small interventions to save fuel include the installation of more aerodynamic body panels on trucks and the installation of an in-site diesel bowser at Vector Peninsula to reduce the need to travel to the nearest filling station. The result of the bowser initiative is a saving of 20 300km of travel per year, saving 6 400 litres of diesel – the equivalent of 17 tons of carbon.

During the recent drought in Cape Town, Vector’s Peninsula hub implemented several aggressive water reduction initiatives which led to a 50% reduction in its freshwater use. Prior to this, the average water consumption at the hub was around 1 429Kℓ per month, of which nearly half was used by refrigeration condensers, as well as sanitation and the truck wash bay. By shifting from traditional water-cooled condensers to adiabatic (air-cooled) condensers, refrigeration water use was reduced by about 70%. The balance of the savings was achieved by installing waterless urinals and flow restrictors; introducing waterless truck washing via a chemical wash system; securing municipal ‘grey water’ as a water source for all low-risk processes such as toilet flushing and yard cleaning; and using alternative sources (such as refrigeration defrost water, rainwater harvesting and borehole water) for non-potable purposes.

Since 2011 Vector has been rolling out a high-frequency web-based monitoring system across its sites, with 18 measuring points operating currently. These provide real-time energy and water usage readings which play an important role in day-to-day resource management while also creating site-specific resource profiles to which future upgrades and interventions can be tailored.

Alongside this, a project is under way to measure key environmental indicators on one dashboard in real time – from energy (municipal usage and site-based solar production), water (municipal usage and site-based reuse), waste (waste to landfill and waste recycled) to refrigeration and diesel usage. It is anticipated that this ‘live’ information will help facilitate better behaviour management, allow for quicker reaction, and drive 24/7 remote accessibility.

With a third of the world (and South Africa’s) food being either lost or wasted each year, Vector has been working to minimise food waste in its network through redistribution and recycling opportunities.

Food that is nearing expiry date, but still safe to eat, is distributed via FoodForward SA to charities serving a broad range of communities. Recycling streams are being introduced, where possible, for food that cannot be consumed, to harness its energy and minimise the amount of waste sent to landfill.

In Durban, Vector’s waste margarine is being converted into biodiesel, while in Cape Town its food waste helps create ‘agriprotein’ – a high-quality protein feed for commercial farmers, made from the larvae of flies fed on food waste. Both initiatives will help Vector contribute to the recently launched 10x20x30 initiative, to which it is a signatory via RCL FOODS.

The initiative is led by Pick ‘n Pay and 10+ of the world’s biggest food retailers and providers who have each committed to engage at least 20 suppliers to halve food loss and waste by 2030, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 12.3.

“Living sustainably is central to our business strategy because it is key to everything we do to build a stronger business and a better future for South Africans. We believe that many small changes in the right direction add up, and we encourage every industry player to do something new – however small – to make more sustainable use of our shared resources,” concludes Creed.


The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) is a trade association representing the temperature-controlled supply chain, including cold storage, transportations, construction, equipment suppliers, and service providers.

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