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Walmart opens sustainable fresh food distribution centre in Alberta

Walmart Canada  is opening its first sustainable fresh food distribution centre, the Balzac distribution centre, a facility that Walmart says will be an estimated 60% more energy-efficient than the company’s traditional refrigerated centres and that will help the company avoid approximately $4.8 million in energy costs over five years. One of North America’s most energy-efficient distribution centres, the Balzac facility is a living lab of sustainability and includes the company’s first pilots of hydrogen fuel cells, solar thermal and wind power, as well as many other sustainability features and products.

November 17, 2010  By  Craig Pearson

“Our sustainable distribution centre showcases the immediate business returns of investing in green innovations and the positive impact of a sustainability mindset through all phases of a project,” said Andy Ellis, Walmart Canada’s SVP of Supply Chain and Logistics. “This living lab of sustainability is supporting the expansion of our modern Supercentre format while also helping us get closer to meeting our long-term sustainability goals. The successful completion of this ambitious project supports our long-held belief that environmental and business sustainability can go hand-in-hand.”

“The Government of Canada congratulates Walmart Canada for its commitment to environmental leadership,” said Canada’s Environment Minister John Baird. “Projects like this innovative Perishable Distribution Centre create a showcase for industry in Alberta and keep our nation on the cutting edge of green technologies.”

Walmart Canada has invested $115 million to build the 400,000 sq.-ft centre. One of Canada’s largest refrigerated buildings, says Walmart, it serves as a hub for fresh and frozen food destined for 104 of the company’s stores in Western Canada, from Manitoba to British Columbia. Over the course of its construction, an estimated 800 jobs were created in trade and construction roles. The Walmart-owned facility will be operated by Supply Chain Management, a third-party logistics provider and will employ approximately 600 team members.

Key sustainability features of the Balzac distribution centre include:


·         Hydrogen fuel cells – These replace traditional lead acid batteries in the facility’s entire fleet of 71 material handling vehicles

·         Wind and solar power – Two, 30-kW wind turbines on the facility’s grounds will generate about 100,000 kWh per year each or enough electricity to power 40 average-sized Canadian homes annually

·         LED lighting – The warehouse and parking lot is lit exclusively by low-energy solid-state (LED) lighting, which provides many financial, operational and environmental benefits

·         Smart refrigeration – The facility’s refrigeration system uses ammonia as a coolant rather than ozone-depleting Freon

·         High-efficiency dock doors and doorways – Dock doors and doorways between temperature zones have been custom-designed to be more energy-efficient

Walmart Canada has invested $220 million in the past two years to update and expand its distribution network. Its national network supplies 321 stores from eight distribution facilities: four sites in Calgary, Alberta, including Balzac; one site in Cornwall, Ontario; and three sites in Mississauga.

On the sustainability side, the company says it is also working with its suppliers to increase its logistics efficiency and to incorporate sustainable practices and initiatives into the processes, operations and mindset of its third-party suppliers. The company has instituted no idling policies in all its stores and distribution centres, improved fill rates on trucks, and increased use of long-combination vehicles. Several times a year, Walmart Canada gathers its logistics suppliers to share best practices and recognizes carriers annually for sustainable operations, processes and corporate commitment.

“After much hard work, with many partners, we’re extremely proud to open our sustainable distribution facility that I believe will set a positive example for our global operations, for business and the world,” said Ellis. “What today serves as a demonstration facility, we hope to see as an industry norm in the not-too-distant future.”

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