Sustainable Last Mile Logistics in Urban Food Retail : Case of Axfood, a Swedish Food Retailer

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för ekonomistyrning och logistik (ELO); Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för ekonomistyrning och logistik (ELO)

Abstract: Purpose: The increasing importance given to sustainability issues by governments, companies, consumers, suppliers, researchers, students and the authors of this paper in addition to the scarce empirical studies on the topic of sustainable last mile logistics operations in the food retail industry in Sweden provides relevance to the choice of topic. This paper presents an exploratory single-case study on a Swedish food retailer with a strong sustainability-oriented decision-making body, and will seek to understand how they manage to adopt best sustainable practices and which drivers and most responsible for it. Objective: The aim of this study is to present through an empirical study, how food retailers operate their last mile logistics operations according to the triple bottom line approach, contributing to this young field where a profusion of data to confirm the existing theory remains deficient. Furthermore, the focus is placed on the different drivers for food retailers to adopt sustainable practices in their transportation operations from the distribution warehouse to their stores located in urban areas. Approach: A Swedish food retailer that strives for best practices will be studied in order to obtain key empirical data, which will allow the authors to compare theory and empirical data.  The study will focus on the sustainability-oriented operations approach in the Last Mile Logistics of the chosen retailer and observe the different drivers regarding their operations following all aspects of the triple bottom line. A single-case study analysis of a leading company in terms of sustainability-driven operations will provide more insight on how this “category” of food retailers manages to operationalize their environmental-friendly culture and strategy for inbound Last Mile Logistics successfully, without losing their competitive edge and remaining economically sustainable. Findings: After juxtaposing the secondary data issued from the existing theories on sustainable LML in the food retail industry to the primary data obtained from Axfood, a Swedish food retailer, the results have demonstrated that a business cannot neglect economic drivers to be financially sustainable, (cost optimization, enhanced efficiency, etc.) it remains important and cannot be overridden to enable a shift towards optimal sustainability practices in LML operations. However, the drivers that have proven to make the cut in order to succeed in achieving best sustainable practices are; a highly proactive management, stakeholder pressure (particularly consumers and NGOs amongst others) and innovative technology (including those that imply a short-term economic trade-off for long-term greater good to the TBL dimensions). Keywords: Sustainability; Sustainable practices; Last Mile Logistics; Sustainable Last Mile Logistics; Triple Bottom Line; Food Retailers; Food Retail Industry; Drivers.

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