Highlights from our sustainability year

The last financial year was important for the company in terms of meeting its sustainability ambitions. We worked hard internally to train people, make better products and organise activities with our targets in mind. We also deepened collaboration with customers, suppliers and other external organisations. From pilot projects to save energy, through to winning a major tender, we’re taking care of business – and the planet. Here’s a look back at just a few of the highlights from FY2024.

Realising our circular ambitions

There was a special milestone as we produced our one millionth automated case picking (ACP) tray made entirely from recycled plastic. These are now in circulation with around ten customers, and have saved us from having to use approximately 1.6 million kilogrammes of virgin polypropylene in their construction. The efforts of everyone involved underscores our commitment to provide customers with more sustainable products, which more of them are now demanding.

As we move towards being a more regenerative company, we can deliver more successful initiatives by designing our products differently. That’s why the company has invested in circular design training. Around 150 people involved in product development and various other functions within the Technology, Airports & Parcel and Warehousing Business Unit have participated.

This will make a real difference to what comes off our production lines in the years to come. That’s because around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined by its design, including what it is made of and how easy it is to repair, along with its potential for reuse, remanufacture and recycling.

In FY2024, we launched our Circular Supply Chain programme, which will help us do more with less. By redefining how materials are handled, the programme will support the company as we transition to the three “Rs” that are critical to a circular economy – reuse, remanufacture and recycle. Having a circular supply chain programme will also help us keep pace with environmental legislation.

Work is centred around three projects that aim to: minimise waste materials left on site; create a transparent overview of stock to enable the efficient return of any unused items; and deliver a thorough assessment of the circular and economic impacts of the materials we use.

Through another circularity initiative, a team from Vanderlande collaborated on a project supported by the province of North Brabant. The Circular Value Center’s Fast Forward programme brought together manufacturing companies that collaborated to cut waste and develop sustainable solutions.

We worked with two of our key suppliers – Zollner and Sioux Technologies – as well as key customer DHL to assess ways of remanufacturing parts from our POSISORTER solution. In the final event of the programme, the team presented a video about our activities, and all parties have signed a letter of intent to continue the work.

Some customer highlights

More of our customers are taking action to be increasingly sustainable and this is beginning to appear in their commercial demands. Across all market segments, we’re noticing an increasing number of tenders that prioritise sustainability—an aspect that wasn’t as widespread just a few years ago. In FY2024, our hard work paid dividends as we secured a major contract to supply a new baggage handling system (BHS) at Schiphol Airport by winning a tender that had a strong focus on sustainability.

The airport was impressed with our ability to provide smart energy analytics, which will provide real-time insights based on historical and predictive data. We’ll incorporate a power management system into our design, and reduce energy consumption through the use of gearless motors and low-friction materials. In addition, the BHS will be designed and built according to the principles of circularity that we are incorporating across the business.

Behind the scenes, we’re also working on several sustainability pilot projects with customers. A notable success came in FY2024 when we teamed up with a leading footwear manufacturer to find ways of reducing energy consumption at one of the company’s European distribution centres.

Significant savings were made by making better use of power analysers to measure energy use and changing the system’s energy saving settings. The changes led to a 12% decrease in consumption. We also successfully tested and installed low-friction conveyor belts, which used 40% less energy than the standard alternative. Finally, we altered sorter running speeds to reflect how busy the system is and these new settings decreased energy usage by 10-13%.

Putting pen to paper

The Board officially signed up to the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP), which focus on improving gender equality in the workplace. We strongly support the aims and objectives of the WEP, which are underpinned by international standards for labour and human rights.

Our company is in fact already aligned with the WEP in areas such as the promotion and professional development of female employees. In addition, gender equality forms part of Vanderlande’s strategic framework for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

We signed on the dotted line again by officially committing to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and enlisting the expertise of an external consultancy firm to assist in developing the strategy. SBTi is a global initiative that helps businesses set emissions targets based on the latest climate science.

The decision to sign a letter of commitment shows our desire to keep moving ahead with our sustainable business practices, ensuring that what we do is informed by the scientific consensus.

Here’s to another productive year for sustainability in FY2025!