Colruyt Group’s approach to mobility
Mobility and why it’s so important
We all travel lots of kilometres every day and that presents us with quite a few challenges. After all, nobody likes to be stuck in a traffic jam, everyone wants to breathe clean air and children need to be able to play outside safely. A smart mobility policy takes all these things into consideration, in addition to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and therefore helping to combat climate change. However, this requires a commitment from all of us, both from companies and individuals.
What are we currently doing?
With over 30,000 employees, more than four million customers and an endless number of products in our logistics chain, it is our responsibility as a retailer to be smart about mobility. We are testing new initiatives and looking for solutions that will have an impact. A real impact – on reducing harmful emissions, improving air quality and keeping our society moving, literally. However, we can’t do this alone. That's why we are actively working together with various companies, partners, special interest groups and authorities.
Our main mobility objectives are:
- Efficient goods transport by avoiding unnecessary, empty and rush-hour kilometres throughout the entire chain.
- Providing our customers with easy access to our products and services.
- Enabling our employees to get to their work place with as little impact on climate change as possible.
- All our initiatives are aimed at making a positive contribution to society as a whole.
- We want to be the frontrunner by setting up partnerships with public institutions and private partners.
In order to achieve these objectives, we apply – among other things – four principles. The number of kilometres travelled has the greatest impact. Our initial focus is therefore on reducing this number. Next, we encourage the use of alternative means of transport, such as boat, train or bicycle. We call this ‘shifting’. If, however, it is still necessary for a journey to be made by car or truck, we use green fuel (e.g. electricity or hydrogen). These three principles apply to our products, employees as well as our customers. Finally, we implement preventive safety measures for road safety.
From producer to shopping trolley
Retail and goods transport go hand in hand. By the time your groceries end up in your trolley, they've already travelled far: from the producer or supplier via the distribution centre to the shelves in the stores. This journey is as efficient and sustainable as possible.
Reducing goods transport
Thanks to the large and small initiatives we have taken, our trucks are driving fewer kilometres.
- Our trucks are always at about 94 % capacity when they drive from the distribution centres to the stores. For incoming deliveries to our distribution centres, we are achieving a load factor of about 77 % by working together with suppliers who bundle their goods as efficiently as possible.
- Unlike many other retailers, we do not use separate refrigerated lorries to transport fresh produce to our stores. We use special liquid ice containers, which can be loaded onto the normal delivery trucks.
- By working together with local producers, we require fewer imports from abroad. Our home-grown range includes locally reared pork, Belgian milk and soya from Kruishoutem. By growing fresh herb plants in our distribution centre - in a vertical farming system that has been developed in-house – we are saving no less than five times the number of kilometres compared to classic cultivation.
Shifting goods transport
We are shifting the transport of goods as much as possible to times when there is less traffic on the road. 49 % of the time, our shops are restocked between 7 pm and 7 am. However, many local authorities and local residents are opposed to off-peak deliveries because of possible noise nuisance. That’s why we are investing in quiet transport trailers, low-noise pallet trucks and covered loading docks, and we are engaged in regular dialogue.
We also encourage our suppliers to avoid driving during peak times: 24 % of deliveries to our distribution centres are made at night.
‘Shifting’ also includes opting for alternative means of transport. More than half of the international goods for which we organise transport, arrive by train or boat. In Belgium, too, we are reducing road transport by using transport by water. Every year, some 5,000 containers for Colruyt Group are transported by barge from the port of Antwerp to Brussels.
Making greener the transport of goods
All our trucks comply with the European emission standard Euro 6. They therefore emit less nitrogen and particulates than previous generations. However, we don’t stop there; we continue to explore the potential of alternative and clean fuels. Our fleet already includes sixteen CNG lorries. At our logistics sites, we are also using two electric terminal trucks for pulling trailers. Their batteries are charged using our own generated renewable green electricity. We are looking for ways to expand this, for example with a hydrogen range-extender.
Four million trips to the store
Every day, more than four million customers travel lots of kilometres between their homes and our stores. So it's only natural that we, as a retailer, help them to keep that number of kilometres as low as possible, whilst trying to keep the kilometres that are travelled as green as possible.
Reducing our customers’ kilometres
- Thanks to our extensive network of stores, you will always be able to find a store near you. When we choose the location for a new store, we give the utmost consideration to its accessibility.
- What if you need to go out of your way to collect a Dreamland order? Absolutely no need as you are able to collect online orders placed with Collishop, Dreambaby or Dreamland from your local Colruyt or OKay store.
- Another way to combine your shopping is on our combisites, which have several of our stores in one location. For instance, in Mol you can find organic products, toys and baby products, all under one roof. Have you noticed that half of our DATS 24 filling stations are located near a Colruyt Group store? That is not a coincidence. It means that our customers can go back home with a full boot and a full tank.
- We are currently trialling home deliveries in the Brussels Periphery using our CNG delivery vans. These emit less CO₂ and particulates than conventional petrol and diesel vans. We also plan our delivery routes as strategically as possible and we aim for our vans to carry the maximum load.
Shifting our customers’ kilometres
A quick trip to the shops by bicycle? We certainly want to encourage that, by making sure our stores have well-equipped and covered bicycle parking. We also have specific store concepts that are tailored to big cities – such as OKay Compact –, that are easily accessible for cyclists and pedestrians.
Making our customers’ kilometres greener
Through DATS 24, we are making more sustainable alternative fuels accessible to everyone. Customers are already able to fill up with CNG at more than 85 filling stations. This makes us the leading supplier of natural gas for vehicles in Belgium. A car on CNG emits significantly less particulates, nitrogen oxides and CO₂ than petrol and diesel cars. Another advantage is that natural gas is completely safe and can never contaminate the soil or water.
We continue to expand our network of electric charging stations in store car parks. There are currently 116 Colruyt Group stores where you can charge your car while you shop, with 100 % green Belgian electricity of course, produced by Eoly. And these charging stations are certainly being used! At the end of 2019, we clocked up about 9,000 charges, which represents about 70 megawatts and a total CO₂ reduction of 18 tonnes.
Every day, more than 30,000 Colruyt Group employees commute to work. On an average weekday, they are collectively commuting around a million kilometres. That’s a really big number, isn’t it? Fortunately, about 1 in 4 employees leave their car at home: they travel to work by bicycle, take public transport or do carpooling. Every year they avoid 42 million car kilometres.
Shifting employee mobility to alternative means of transport is very important. It is even better to reduce the number of kilometres travelling to work and additional work places in the first place. As an employer, we have implemented several initiatives to achieve this.
Reducing our employees’ kilometres
- On average, our store employees travel 50 % less distance to work than our office employees. Thanks to our extensive network of stores, there is always a store close to where they live.
- Our office staff can work up to two days a week in a regional office, closer to home. We currently have 11 regional offices across the country. In 2019, we avoided 856,035 kilometres of commuting in this way.
- Video conferencing avoids any unnecessary travel.
- Carpooling with colleagues is nicer, cheaper, better for the environment and means there are fewer cars on the road. Some 1,900 employees have already found someone to travel the same route with, partly thanks to our carpooling database. Carpoolers are also given a reserved parking space near the entrance to our office buildings, as an extra incentive.
- A special kind of carpooling is our ‘Office On Wheels’ project. Every day, this Office On Wheels takes about 23 employees from Ghent to Halle, and back again. They are able to work during the journey. This is good for 571,320 saved kilometres and 75 tons of CO₂ reduction per year.
Shifting our employees’ kilometres
19 % of our colleagues travel to work by bicycle every day. This is in line with the Flemish average and is even above the Belgian average. Together they achieve a CO₂ reduction of almost 3,000 tons per year, compared to the same route by car. The 1,600 employees who use public transport, in turn, achieve almost 3,500 tonnes of CO₂ reduction per year. As an employer, we encourage the choice of these more sustainable means of transport by removing as many barriers as possible.
- Employees who cycle to work receive a bicycle allowance. That’s only fair, isn't it?
- Employees who agree to travel to work by bicycle are entitled to a free company bicycle. They also receive a bike kit, which includes a raincoat, helmet, hi-vis vest and repair kit. Employees who need to cycle more than 7 km to get to work can choose an electric bicycle. We have more than 4,600 company bicycles in total.
- We provide as many stores and buildings as possible with the appropriate infrastructure for cyclists: covered bicycle sheds, changing rooms, showers and lockers.
- Every employee is entitled to a free train season ticket. Bus, tram and metro journeys are also fully reimbursed.
- Employees who travel by public transport can combine their journey with a commuter bicycle or folding bicycle to get from the station to work. In Halle, those bicycles are parked in a covered and monitored bicycle park, which also offers a free bicycle repair service.
- For travel between work places, employees can use bicycle sharing.
Making our employees’ kilometres greener
More than half of our company vehicles run on alternative energy, as a cleaner alternative to petrol or diesel. At the moment, most of these vehicles run on CNG: 43,7 % of passenger cars. Most of our replacement cars are also CNG cars.
We have also been investing in electric vehicles for our fleet for several years. These do not emit any CO₂ or particulates and are therefore literally a breath of fresh air for people and the environment. Even more so when the electricity used is also generated in an environmentally friendly way, as is the case in Colruyt Group.
- Employees have four electric cars at their disposal for travel between work places.
- Our range of company cars is reviewed every year and made greener where possible. This year we introduced a few new 100 % electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars with a large battery capacity. Employees who drive 100 % electric can charge their car at work.
- In addition to CNG cars, our garage provides electric cars as replacement cars.
- Employees can buy an electric scooter for their commute to work at a very good price through Colruyt Group.
Finally, we firmly believe in hydrogen as an inexhaustible, green fuel for vehicles. How does it work? The fuel cell on board the vehicle converts hydrogen into electricity. That electricity drives the engine and makes the car move. The exhaust only emits harmless water vapour, no CO₂, nitrogen oxides or particulates. If you can also produce the hydrogen in a sustainable way – as we do with energy from our wind turbines and solar panels – you have a 100 % sustainable fuel. Our fleet currently includes seven hydrogen-powered company cars and nine service vehicles.
A charming charter
‘Courteous and safe driving, I’m working on it.’ That slogan on our trucks is not an empty promise. We consider road safety to be of paramount importance. Our 600 truck drivers have all signed a courtesy charter. This is to show their commitment to playing an important part in helping to make traffic better and safer. They also regularly follow training courses to guarantee safety.
Investing in road safety
Being a courteous driver primarily means being respectful to other road users. It is important to be careful with vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. All our trucks are fitted with an extra side mirror, a blind spot camera and safe side guards so cyclists can't fall under the truck. Our trailers also have warning stickers that remind vulnerable road users of the dangers of blind spots.
Teach them early and they won’t forget
To make young people aware of the dangers on the road, we regularly organise awareness-raising events together with schools, municipal authorities and the police. Our drivers drive the Colruyt truck up to the playground and give the youngsters the opportunity to sit at the wheel. Every year they explain what a blind spot is to some 10,000 pupils.
Information and inspiration
Through DATS 24, we are making alternative fuels more widely available. However, people have to decide to actually use them. That's why we help cities and local authorities to offer information sessions about alternative fuels. And, of course, Colruyt Group Academy also provides the workshop ‘Greener on the road’. It explains the pros and cons of electric cars and CNG and hydrogen cars. We endeavour to have an info stand at as many events as possible and we actively participate in Mobility Week every year. In this way, we want to help as many people as possible to make their mobility more sustainable.
Since April 2019, the bicycle specialist Bike Republic has been part of Colruyt Group. Bike Republic combines a wide range of bicycles at competitive prices with its own workshop for carrying out maintenance and repairs. At the moment, there are 13 specialist stores located all over Flanders. We intend to rapidly expand this number. In this way, we hope to encourage people to choose cycling as a more sustainable means of transport.
Mobility is our collective responsibility. The mobility issue can only be tackled if we join forces. That's why we actively work together with other companies, partners, special interest groups and the authorities.
- Together with the Flemish government and companies such as Be-Mobile, Transport & Mobility Leuven, Antwerp Port Authority and the Port of Zeebrugge, Colruyt Group participates in the innovative CITRUS project (Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems for Trucks). As part of this project, we have developed the CITRUS app that provides truck drivers with real-time traffic information about traffic jams, incidents and road works.
We also tested the intelligent traffic lights control with CITRUS. This is how it works: a truck sends a signal to a traffic light. Depending on the rest of the traffic – other approaching trucks, priority vehicles, public transport, passenger cars, etc. – there is the option for the normal timing of the traffic light phase to be altered. The driver also receives information about whether or not he can still make the green light in time. The aim: improved traffic flow and therefore safer and more sustainable traffic.
- ‘Mobility is a serious game’ – a game that encourages people to think more about sustainable mobility – is the result of a collaboration between Colruyt Group, VUB, Inland Navigation Europe, Durabrik, Fockedey and Netwerk Duurzame Mobiliteit [Sustainable Mobility Network]. Because players come from different organisations, there is a different input of ideas. It is easier for players to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, understand their point of view and come up with solutions to the mobility problem together. The game was first played during the mobility congress 'Connecting the Dots' in 2017.
- Our ‘Office on Wheels’ bus started as a pilot project in cooperation with the trade association BAAV (autocars) and the Flemish Institute for Mobility (VIM), with the support of Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Agentschap Innoveren en Ondernemen, Vlaio). The concept was extended to other companies, but was not adopted. However, we will certainly continue with it!
- Together with the City of Halle and Sport Flanders, we looked at four walking routes and a new cycling route in Halle. This convenient link through the countryside is a safe and pleasant alternative for cyclists and pedestrians, rather than taking busy roads.
What other plans do we have in store for the future?
Electric powered vehicles
By 2021, we want to have electric charging stations at 200 locations, both in store car parks for our customers and in car parks for our employees. Since the beginning of this year, cyclists have been able to charge their electric bicycles while they shop at OKay Ghent. If cyclists are enthusiastic about our initiative, we’ll step it up a notch and extend this service to other stores as well. We also invest in electricity as fuel for our freight transport. We currently have 40 trucks of our own. We want at least one-third of those to run on electricity by 2030.
Large scale hydrogen
In our opinion, hydrogen really is the clean fuel of the future. Since 2004, we have already invested 6 million euros in innovative hydrogen projects. The employees in our distribution centre in Halle use forklifts powered by hydrogen produced by ourselves. In addition, our engineers are investigating the possibilities of hydrogen as a green energy buffer.
In October 2018, DATS 24 opened the first filling station in Halle where consumers can fill up with green hydrogen. This hydrogen is produced locally with the renewable electricity from the Eoly wind turbines. This is the first hydrogen filling station in Europe where you can also fill up with other fuels. This makes us a real frontrunner.
By the end of 2021, we will open four new hydrogen filling stations: in Haasrode, Erpe-Mere, Wilrijk and Herve. We receive European support for this. Support for hydrogen remains necessary: not only financially, but also in terms of raising awareness and infrastructure. We are asking for a clear policy vision from the government.
In addition to green hydrogen for passenger cars, we also believe in this renewable fuel for trucks. Also in this area we are adopting a pioneering role: at the end of 2020, we tested the first prototype of a 44-tonne hydrogen truck. We did this together with a variety of partners from e.g. the logistics and fuel sectors. At our logistics site in Ollignies we are also building the first hydrogen refuelling station for heavy transport.
The world is becoming increasingly urbanised and the demand for urban goods transport continues to grow. Logistics transport is already responsible for a quarter of CO₂ emissions in cities. Although delivery vehicles only account for between 10 and 20 % of the distance covered, this sector actually produces 30 to 50 % of other emissions, such as nitrogen oxides and particulates.
In order to keep city centres liveable, we have been investing in EIT Urban Mobility since 2019. This is an initiative supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Together with a number of large cities and other companies, we are working on the ZEUS project: Zero Emission off-peak Urban deliverieS. We are studying how we can reduce the noise level during loading and unloading and shift more deliveries from peak to off-peak times. We are also looking at how we can achieve this emission-free. This is good for the peace and quiet of local residents, better road safety and cleaner air. By investing in EIT Urban Mobility, our expertise is combined with that of our partners, resulting in strong solutions that can make a difference in tomorrow's world.
In addition, Colruyt Group, together with 34 other organisations and the Flemish government have signed the Green Deal on Sustainable Urban Logistics. By signing this deal, we declare our commitment to reduce the emissions from goods transport in cities. Every participant has their own approach to reducing the distances driven and ensuring that journeys are made at appropriate times and using more environmentally friendly or even zero emission vehicles. With a focus on road safety and limiting traffic jams and noise nuisance. The Flemish government, for its part, is looking at where bottlenecks within the regulations can be overcome.