Warehouse & Distribution Centers

The operation of forklift and pallet trucks, lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration units that store food in our warehouses and redistribution centers requires considerable energy.

Our energy management program has achieved significant improvements, reducing the energy usage at our warehouses in excess of 19% even as we increased warehouse storage space by 29%. This equates to a near 40% improvement in the energy intensity of our warehouses. [see footnote below]

Refrigeration, lighting and battery charging operations provide our biggest energy savings potential. Refrigeration units typically account for half of our total energy consumption, with lighting and battery charging constituting the majority of the remaining load.

We regularly upgrade refrigeration equipment, freezer and cooler doors, dock doors, lighting and office air conditioning systems in our warehouses. When one of our facilities expands or we reconfigure existing space, we take the opportunity to increase energy efficiency.

Upgrades during FY2014 included the installation of computerized refrigeration controls, variable speed drives on equipment, more effective freezer doors and energy-efficient, motion-controlled fluorescent and LED lighting.

We also reduce energy use at our warehouses and redistribution centers by:

  • Providing ongoing training for our associates regarding best practices for energy efficient operation of refrigeration systems, battery chargers, lighting, etc.;
  • Continuously monitoring electrical energy consumption at our facilities to drive continuous improvement and identify and correct any operational or equipment issues that could have a negative impact on energy efficiency;
  • Continually reviewing building layouts to reduce the distance traveled by forklift trucks, allowing a larger amount of product to be handled over a shorter timeframe;
  • Installing "miniload" machines in new facilities to automate the storage and retrieval of low-volume products, allowing us to store more items in smaller spaces;
  • Installing hydrogen fuel powered lift trucks in the new facilities to reduce electrical consumption and demand loads;
  • Switching from double pallets to triple pallets, allowing us to lift 50 percent more cases for the same distance traveled;
  • Installing more efficient heating control systems;
  • Reviewing all cost effective energy efficiency upgrade options during new and existing warehouse construction projects.

National Recycling and Waste Reduction

In FY2014 Sysco implemented a comprehensive recycling program across our U.S. Broadline facilities to remove recyclables from our solid waste stream, lower disposal costs and increase our recycling tonnage and revenues.

We have designed a program that is "recycling-led" - meaning we consider recycling options first before discarding into landfills or incinerators.

A national "Green Team" is working with Sysco Corporate Purchasing to drive the success of the recycling program and ensure that Standard Operating Procedures are implemented across the organization.

Since the majority of our recycling tonnage is corrugated and shrink-wrap materials, the program began with these commodities. It will eventually incorporate the full range of recyclables including office paper, plastics, light bulbs and electronics.

One of the program's objectives is to centralize reporting that has historically been handled locally. We will introduce the program in five stages to ensure 100% participation and accuracy across all of our broadline operating companies. When it is fully implemented, we will benchmark Sysco facilities against each other on key metrics such as net cost/case, recycling tonnage/case and solid waste tonnage/case.

Recycling increased 41%, or 824 tons, at our U.S. Broadline companies from April to November 2014, during the rollout of Sysco's recycling program. Additionally, solid waste tonnage decreased by 327 tons, or 10%. From March through December, Sysco recycled more than 3,730 tons of waste, saving about 63,000 trees; 26 million gallons of water; 29 million gallons of oil; 2.2 million pounds of air pollutants; 11,000 cubic yards of landfill space; and 258 million kilowatt hours of energy.

Renewable Energy

Our Houston warehouse uses a fleet of pallet trucks and forklifts entirely powered by hydrogen fuel cells that have replaced approximately 180 lead acid batteries.

We have extended the use of these vehicles to newly built facilities in central Texas, Long Island, NY, Boston, MA and Riverside, CA. We replaced our pallet and forklift truck fleet in Philadelphia with hydrogen-fuel-celled vehicles and continue to evaluate other retrofit opportunities. We are adding on-site hydrogen generation plants for warehouse vehicles. With the opening of our Riverside, California, facility in FY2013, we now have more than 700 fuel cells in seven of our facilities.

Also exploring the use of renewable energy generation, we installed solar panels at our Los Angeles warehouse in FY2012. Reducing annual energy costs significantly, they contributed to energy savings of more than 1.8 million kilowatt hours in their first year at the facility.

Reducing Office Impacts

Although they do not have a significant environmental footprint, we also aim to reduce impacts from our corporate offices including energy use, water and waste.

Sysco's Houston headquarters is LEED Gold rated by the U.S. Green Building Council for its environmental performance. Features include the use of natural light, high-efficiency glass to prevent heat loss and gain, low-energy lighting, more efficient ventilation systems and a heat reflective roof. Water-saving features include water saving fixtures in bathrooms and the use of native plants in the landscaping to reduce the need for watering. Office waste including paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic is collected and recycled.

Similar features, including computer controlled air chillers, a heat reflective roof and automatic lighting sensors, have been installed at our Sysco Business Services (SBS) facility in Cypress, Texas.

SBS installed a water softener system in fiscal year 2014 that has significantly reduced the amount of water used in its cooling towers, also reducing make-up water consumption by 35% and sewer discharge by 46%.

In conjunction with Cascade Energy, SBS identified and completed - with minimal capital investment -- 33 action items that significantly reduce the building's energy consumption. The savings have been outstanding. Energy consumption fell 17% through the first 6 months of 2014, even as we added 400 new associates to the building.

Several steps were taken to enhance the plant's ability to stay online during storms and ensure a safe environment for our associates. Protective coatings were applied to large windows on the second level of our central plant to prevent window breakage and fragmentation during storms, enabling continuous operations during catastrophic weather events and keeping high voltage equipment free from water. Heat reflective roofs with 31/2" foam insulation were added to some sections of the roof to significantly improve energy efficiency.

Responding to flooding issues along nearby Cypress Creek, we also added a new asphalt parking lot and a retention pond to the property.

Water use

Although we are not a significant water user, we do use water for refrigeration systems, washing vehicles and landscaping. We have identified water-saving opportunities including recycling water from vehicle washing stations and refrigeration units and using rainwater for landscaping at our offices. We have tested technology to capture and recycle condensation from cooling processes, and we plan to install this in future facilities. We are collecting baseline data on water use to set future reduction targets.