Wholesalers & Distributors

C&S Wholesale Grocers rolls ahead on ‘Green Path’ sustainability road map

Update from distributor spotlights advances in greenhouse gas and waste reduction.
C&S Wholesale Grocers-truck cabs
C&S Wholesale Grocers said it achieved a 12% reduction in its measured network year over year in greenhouse gas emissions versus an overall goal of 5%. / Photo courtesy of C&S

C&S Wholesale Grocers is making steady progress in its sustainability strategy, led by efforts to shrink its carbon footprint and reduce waste.

In its 2023 sustainability report, released Friday, C&S said it achieved a 12% reduction in its measured network year over year in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions versus an overall goal of 5%. That came less than three years into the Keene, New Hampshire-based distributor’s “The Green Path Forward” environmental road map announced in 2020.

To cut down GHGs like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), C&S reported that it has made “tremendous investments” in green refrigeration systems and now uses a natural refrigerant—ammonia—within almost 100% of its warehouses.

Last year, the wholesaler kicked off a three-year phased project to convert its warehouse in Robesonia, Pennsylvania, from freon to ammonia. A portion of the new equipment already has been installed, with the rest to be added over the coming months and a start-up expected in late 2023. In 2022, C&S upgraded refrigeration control systems at two warehouses and compressor control panels at three facilities to improve operating efficiency. Also to lower potential GHG emissions, C&S converted the remaining portion of its Plant City, Florida, facility from freon to ammonia over the past year, and the site is now completely functioning on a natural, environmentally friendly refrigerant, the company said.

This year, C&S is running pilots for a refrigeration management software at two warehouse locations. According to the sustainability report, the test includes a centralized platform for refrigeration system energy data; a user interface to generate custom views, reporting and access to real-time energy data, energy action item tracking and performance benchmarking; real-time metering and data flow support at 15-minute intervals; and predictive energy model benchmarking. If the forecast 5% energy usage savings are realized, C&S said it aims to deploy the program at all refrigerated warehouses.

C&S Wholesale Grocers-refrigerate-perishables facility

In its 2023 sustainability report, C&S said it has made “tremendous investments” in green refrigeration systems and now uses a natural refrigerant—ammonia—in almost 100% of its warehouses. / Photo courtesy of C&S

Migration to more eco-friendly refrigerants also is happening on the retail side. In 2022, C&S opened 11 Grand Union supermarket in New York and Vermont. Now the distributor is converting from R22 refrigerant to R438A (MO99) refrigerant—which has a zero-ozone depleting potential rating—at nine Grand Union stores. Though not a natural refrigerant, zero-ozone depleting potential rating follows the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, and C&S added that it’s working to improve the immediate problem and has a longer-term solution already in place for conversions later on. Other plans under way to make Grand Union “go greener,” C&S said, include LED lighting conversions at nine Grand Union stores, due to be completed in 2023.

The sustainability report said C&S also continues to employ solutions from Advanced Charging Technologies (ACT) for forklift battery and charging at several warehouses. An online portal, ACT View enables the C&S personnel to monitor site usage. Last year, C&S deployed the solution to five sites, with eight facilities now completely ACT-installed. In other facilities, when a charger needs to be replaced, associates install an ACT. The solutions have led to a reduction of 774,615 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted.  

Last year also saw C&S stay on track with its “perpetual asset replacement” strategy for transportation. The company reported that its tractor fleet has upheld a 100% replacement cycle, while its trailer fleet remains on pace for an 85% replaced rate and a target of 100% by 2027. Nearly all of diesel-powered assets have been replaced with much more efficient technology in recent years, enabling lower diesel gallon consumption and emissions. C&S noted that it gauges a range of innovations and alternative energy solutions, such as electric yard trucks and electric shore power for refrigerated trailers running in its yards equipping assets with aerodynamic and lightweight fuel-efficient components.

Smart profiles, too, have been installed in 84% of C&S’ refrigerated trailer fleet, with 100% installation by 2025, the report said. This year, C&S plans to pilot six new Wabash National refrigerated trailers built with technology that will further rein in fuel consumption via new insulation and construction techniques.

A linchpin of “The Green Path Forward” strategy, C&S pointed out, is instilling waste-reduction best practices into daily operations as much as possible. Company leaders review waste-to-energy outlets and composting options where available, while also focusing on recyclable material strategies to support the diversion of solid waste from landfills, the sustainability report said. In 2022, C&S kept 79 tons of warehouse paper, 13,542 tons of cardboard, 2,335 tons of plastic shrink wrap, 14,453 tons of wooden pallets and three tons of e-waste (computer and printer equipment).

“This year, we made many strides in our strategic sustainability goals contained within C&S’ ‘The Green Path Forward,’” CEO Bob Palmer said in a statement. “I am very proud of the work that the C&S team does every day. Not only do we feed our communities, but we also operate in a way that ensures our planet is healthy for generations to come.”

The largest U.S. grocery distributor, C&S Wholesale Grocers supplies more than 7,500 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and institutions, offering over 100,000 products.



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