Efficient Consumer Response UK (ECR) is investigating collaborative distribution as a means to reduce food miles, ECR Collaborative Distribution co-chair and logistics director of Coca-Cola Enterprises Peter Latham told the IGD Supply Chain Summit in London yesterday (9 November).

“Collaborative green transport is one of the key projects in ECR, bringing retailers and suppliers together to serve consumers more efficiently,” he told his audience of representatives from various major food retail and manufacturing companies.

The food industry in the UK is responsible for 22% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and 25% of the miles clocked up by heavy goods vehicles. With the government trying to tackle CO2 emission levels, the food industry is coming under increasing pressure to reduce its CO2 output.

“This is not an issue that is going to go away. It is an issue that is going to gain more political attention,” Latham warned. “Ultimately, if we don’t do something we are likely to face legal and financial penalties.”

With ever growing oil costs, an additional incentive for the food industry to cut emissions, Latham suggested, is the associated cost savings.

While there are already some attempts at collaborative distribution, this currently only occurs between trading partners and not competitors. ECR aims to expand this trend to include all players in the industry.

However, Latham acknowledged that a number of difficulties stand in the way of this vision not least incompatible systems and equipment. “To work more collaboratively in the future we may have to compromise our own standards to achieve the bigger goal,” he concluded.