A large proportion of CO2 emissions comes from goods transport. We are reducing environmental impact by using alternative fuels such as hydrogen and biodiesel and by using rail transport. In addition, we are reducing a portion of CO2 emissions through offsetting projects.

More rail in preference to road

Our extensive POS network requires distribution by truck, but we already rely on rail for over two thirds of our goods transport between our national and regional distribution centres.

Since 2011, we have used the unaccompanied combined transport (UCT) concept to shift more of our goods transport to rail. This involves transporting the goods to the nearest rail hub in swap bodies and transferring them to trains. The freight containers are transported from the destination rail hub to the points of sale by road. This form of transport is even possible for smaller journeys of up to around 90 kilometres. In our City Cargo Geneva project, for instance, the foods are transported from the distribution centre in Aclens directly to the centre of Geneva. This has a positive effect on the climate and reduces traffic on the motorways. Since 2014, basic foods and wine from Italy have also been transported from Chiasso to our distribution centres by Railcare, using UCT. The environmentally friendly combination of road and rail enables us to transport around 3 000 additional swap bodies each year.

Biodiesel and biogas as fuels

To reduce the CO2 emissions caused when transporting goods by truck, we are increasingly relying on fuel from biogenic waste. We have already converted our filling stations at the distribution centres, where drivers fill their trucks with up to 20 percent biodiesel produced from organic waste such as used cooking oil. Our new trucks all meet the Euro 6 emissions standard and can be run entirely on biodiesel. On average, our trucks are already 40 percent fuelled by biodiesel (as of 2018).

Transport by electric truck

Switzerland's first 18 tonne electric truck, which is both quiet and energy-efficient, supplies our supermarkets in the greater Zurich area without causing any CO2 emissions. The electric truck is powered by electricity from hydrogen obtained from the grid and by solar power from a photovoltaic unit on the roof of the vehicle. At one kilowatt hour of electricity per kilometre, it requires only around a third as much energy as a conventional diesel truck. Based on our very positive experiences of the project, we began using six additional electric trucks in 2016.

Promoting hydrogen-fuelled mobility

Since November 2016, we have operated the first public hydrogen filling station in Switzerland in Hunzenschwil (Canton Aargau). The sustainable hydrogen for the Coop Mineraloel AG filling station in Hunzenschwil is produced from excess electricity at the Eniwa AG run-of-the-river power plant in Aarau, in other words, electricity that would otherwise not be used. The origin of the hydrogen is the key criterion as to whether vehicles powered by hydrogen are really environmentally friendly. The hydrogen must come from renewable energy sources in order to have a real environmental advantage over other energy sources.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles do not generate any CO2, nitrogen or sulphur oxides and no soot particulates.  After being started, the car produces steam, which falls to the ground as precipitation and thus remains in the hydrological cycle. To help hydrogen-powered mobility achieve the breakthrough at the global level, we advanced the establishment of the “H2 Mobility Switzerland” association. Its goal is to build up a nationwide network of hydrogen filling stations across Switzerland.

© Mischa Christen

Four years ago, we commissioned twelve hydrogen-powered company cars and the first H2 truck. Today, the twelve company cars are still on the road for Coop. With the world’s first H2 series-produced truck by Hyundai, which we commissioned in October 2020, we are continuing to rely on hydrogen-powered trucks. By the end of 2020, seven more vehicles of this model will increase our fleet and transport goods for Coop. The H2 truck can travel around 400 km on a single tank load. We thus save around 80 tonnes of CO2 per year with each hydrogen-powered truck.

Reduction of air freight

Besides goods transport within Switzerland, air freight from overseas also damages the environment. Our internal guidelines state that air freight may only be used if, for reasons of quality or very tight time constraints, there is no other option. We label goods that have been flown in with a By Air sticker. Thanks to faster logistics processes and modern refrigeration techniques, it is possible to transport more and more goods from overseas by boat.

Comprehensive CO2 offsetting concept

Since 2007, we have offset each air mile of our goods transport as well as all our business trips. We also offset the CO2 emissions from deliveries by our online store Coop@home. To do this, within our value chains and working with the WWF, we are devising projects according to the Gold standard, the most stringent existing standard for climate protection projects. As well as protecting the climate, these projects must also benefit the local population. The Coop Sustainability Fund carefully finances selected offsetting projects, providing around 2 million Swiss francs a year.

To give one example, the construction of biogas plants in one of our rice growing areas in India reduces CO2 emissions by around 5 tonnes per plant and per year. The provision of efficient ovens in our rose-growing region in Kenya has also helped reduce CO2 emissions (Action no. 256). Thanks to the ovens, the local people need to collect and burn less firewood, cutting firewood consumption in half. The lessening of harmful smoke indoors also has a positive impact on the health of the occupants.

In the southern Chinese province of Sichuan, we have developed a similar project and, in partnership with the WWF, introduced ovens which reduce wood consumption by half (Action no. 84). This enables us to save 224 hectares of forest each year, preserving it for the Giant Panda. Additionally, environmental impact is lessened and CO2 emissions reduced.