Working together for global sustainability

CHEP, A brambles company Source: Google Images

Worldwide logistics firm’s ‘share and reuse’ model aims for a Zero Waste World, in partnership with staff, customers and communities.

Connecting people with life’s essentials every day, using a circular, share-and-reuse model, has seen Brambles, the global supply-chain solutions company operating as CHEP in South Africa, help customers achieve phenomenal resource savings, and be rated the second most sustainable company in the world.

The organisation’s circular business model is the foundation of these achievements, and the successes of the model are outlined in the company’s annual Sustainability Review 2019, released recently.

The model involves the world’s largest range of supply chain platforms – hundreds of millions of pallets, crates and containers – being shared and reused by growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers across the planet.

Compared to single-use alternatives, these reusable solutions have saved two million tonnes of CO2, 1.7 million cubic metres of wood, 2 595 megalitres of water, 1.3 million metric tons of solid waste and 1.7 million trees, according to the Sustainability Review.

“Measurable results like these show that ‘share and reuse’ benefits customers, the environment and society,” said CHEP Senior Sustainability Manager Nomathemba Mhlanga. “CHEP understands that global sustainability is driven by resource scarcity, so we have partnered with our stakeholders to centre our business around preserving capital – natural, human and relationship capital.

Mhlanga said that a key part of this sustainability strategy was eliminating waste.

“Leading consumer goods companies and retailers see physical waste as a significant risk, and many are moving towards ‘zero waste’,” she said. “CHEP’s Zero Waste World (ZWW) programme involves partnering with these companies to make the move to a circular economy faster and simpler. It focuses on eliminating waste, reducing empty transport miles and cutting out inefficiencies.”

Mhlanga explained how CHEP in South Africa was constantly refining its business model to be more sustainable, having expanded into the forestry sector, which supplies wood for CHEP pallets, in 2006. This “backwards integration” approach has been so successful that today, CHEP owns 10 pine plantations, with interests in a sawmill and a pallet plant. This allows CHEP to keep sawn-timber prices down, to ensure high timber and pallet standards, and to keep the production process environmentally sound.

“Forests are critical carbon sinks, helping to mitigate global warming and climate change. We source all our wood from accredited forests, ensuring virgin forests continue to function as effective carbon sequestrators,” said Mhlanga. “This also it decouples our business growth from resource use.”

CHEP SA plantations are certified by the international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in terms of water use, ecosystem stewardship, protection of species, co-existence with communities, supply chains and worker safety.

CHEP is also able to drive alternatives to sending wood waste to landfill, finding industries where this waste can become an input for other products.

Mhlanga said CHEP was most proud of initiatives where it had partnered with customers and NGOs to realise its sustainability goals, while benefiting broader society and the environment.

“One of the key efficiencies has been digitizing our physical network,” she said. “This generates data and real-time analytics that drive better decisions in stores, track fresh food and improve operations. Better tracking also improves the longevity of produce, curbing food waste.”

“We are extremely proud that our organisation is recognised as a global sustainability leader,” said Mhlanga. “It’s all about shaping a sustainable future. As a signatory of the Paris Agreement, South Africa has committed to reversing climate change. Conscious consumers are also demanding greater transparency and accountability along the supply chain.

We are proud to help lead this change. Through our staff, our customers and all our stakeholders, we are committed to creating a better planet for all.”