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Achieving fuel efficiency at Sainsbury’s

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Sainsbury’s Supermarkets was founded in 1869 by John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury, making it the UK’s longest running major food retailing chain. Today the company includes more than 600 supermarkets and over 800 convenience stores. Many of its stores also operate an internet-based home delivery shopping service. The supermarket chain employs 185,000 people across Britain and Ireland and has over 27 million customers each week.

The company has achieved its target of reducing energy use by 34% by 2020 and it is now working towards its target of becoming net zero by 2035.


Sainsbury’s effectively monitors its fuel efficiency by setting monthly targets, which are agreed on and achieved through its sustainability programme. These targets are focused on driver efficiency, third-party manufacturer guidance, tyre management, use of alternative fuels and vehicle choice.

Furthermore, an environmental champion has been appointed at each of the organisation’s depots to manage and deliver low carbon transport solutions. The Sainsbury’s Driver of the Year (DOTY) programme recognises and rewards good driving performance, and drivers are encouraged to improve their driving style through the publication of a driver league table and fuel bonuses. Sainsbury’s telematics system monitors fuel efficiency and safe driving, which is also one of the competition criteria.

To eliminate empty running through primary and secondary distribution, as well as salvage returns, Sainsbury’s uses a routing and scheduling system to control delivery distances and maximise backhaul opportunities.

In July 2021, Sainsbury’s became the first UK retailer to introduce fully electric refrigerated trailers to its delivery fleet. The trailers will use innovative new technology that adds charge back into the battery source by converting kinetic energy into electricity, keeping the fridges onboard at the right temperature while reducing energy consumption.


Sainsbury’s has reduced the number of empty running trips by significantly increasing the number of backhaul loads. The company’s use of fuel-efficient tyres is being evaluated following a year-long trial and further evaluation is needed before being implemented across the fleet. A fitted tyre pressure monitoring system on the organisation’s double-decker trucks and fuel tankers has resulted in a reduction in fuel consumption.

In addition, advanced aerodynamic systems have been installed on the company’s vehicles to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency – an intervention that has been thoroughly tested at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

Sainsbury’s has saved a total of 8.5 million litres in fuel since 2004/05. Since 2009, the company has been investing in alternative fuels and has operated 109 dual fuel gas/diesel trucks. Today, the company operates 32 LNG tractor units for longer journeys to maximise fuel and emissions returns, five CNG tractor units, and is investing in an additional 10 LNG trucks. It also operates two electric vans, with plans to add more to its fleets in the coming years.

Sainsbury’s can demonstrate 15 years of 1.5% year-on-year fuel efficiency based on all the initiatives the company has implemented.

“We are continuously investing in new innovations within transport to make our fleet more efficient and greener, and to ensure we reach our ambitious target of net zero by 2035.”

Lyn Worral, Sustainability Manager, Sainsbury’s