Sustainability in the Vending Industry.

Elyas Coutts, CEO of Connect Vending, shares his thoughts on the vending industry's sustainability journey to date, and how we can all do our bit to save the planet.

Few topics have been discussed more seriously and regularly over the last 10 years than climate change and the impact we are all having on our natural environment. Rightly so, governments have been working to find lasting, effective solutions to climate change, with the Paris Agreement of 2016 and the COP26 conference of 2021 being the latest big pushes to agree unilateral curbs on carbon emissions.

Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing humanity, with rising sea levels posing a genuine threat to the existence of pacific nations, as well as potentially submerging some of the world’s greatest cities. But climate change is just one of many threats to our natural environment, and we must do more to protect our forests, reduce plastic pollution in our oceans and retain biodiversity within our green spaces and our food supply chain.

In the vending industry, we have our part to play in reducing our impact, as well as our suppliers and partners’ impact on the environment, be it by minimising carbon emissions or reducing the amount of wastage in all areas of our operations. Elyas Coutts, CEO of Connect Vending

One way the industry is reducing its energy footprint is by developing ever more energy efficient machines, and driving adoption of these machines through operators such as ourselves. It’s becoming more and more important for our clients that what we’re supplying them with is not only fulfilling the food and drink requirements of staff in the workplace, but also aligning with organisations’ CSR/ESG policies and having as minimal impact on the environment as possible.

Machine innovation goes further than increased energy consumption though, it’s also about improving the material efficiency of machines, i.e. manufacturing units with only the necessary materials, in a way that doesn’t compromise the function or durability of the machine.  Or, in some cases, replacing materials in the manufacturing process with newer, better materials that can be more easily recycled or are less harmful to the environment.

Another way that we can do our bit is by working with suppliers to reduce the amount of single use plastic that is being put into product ranges. Recently, Simply Lunch announced that they would be removing all packaging that contained single use plastics and replacing them with environmentally friendly alternatives. Across their full product range, this is expected to reduce plastic usage by 10 tonnes per year.

This is part of a wider trend in the food and drink industry of reducing packaging waste, or transitioning to recyclable materials. Collectively, suppliers to the vending industry are doing a great job at cutting unnecessary packaging waste. We’ve been doing our part to remove plastic waste, too, replacing all plastic cups from our supply chain and providing paper equivalents since 2014.

At Connect Vending, we have also been working hard to reduce our direct carbon emissions from our operations. We are on a journey to electrify our vehicle fleet which we estimate will reduce our carbon footprint by more than 200 tonnes a year, with a reduction of more than 8 tonnes per year from November 2022.

Our office and warehouse spaces have transitioned to full LED lighting, and we’ve been utilising solar panels to offset our energy footprint for many years, with both initiatives having helped us to reduce our carbon footprint. Elyas Coutts, CEO of Connect Vending

Across the business we are also looking to reduce paper consumption and have already identified changes to our working behaviours to remove thousands of sheets of paper from our stock cupboards, per year, by replacing paper documents with equivalent digital documents.

We have been recycling our paper and cardboard waste for many years and want to continue to push the business forwards and further minimise our impact on the environment by digitising internal processes.

Whilst there are many unknowns when it comes to future government policy around climate change and waste management, I am fully confident in the ability of the vending industry to adapt and innovate to whatever sustainability challenges come our way.

We have collectively shown a desire to improve the way that we operate, and I know from conversations with our friends and partners that we’re all working to the same common goals with energy and enthusiasm.