UNFI becoming greener, more efficient at distribution centers

Rooftop solar arrays and digital communications, support for farmers to transition to regenerative farming are among UNFI’s ESG activities. Learn more.

A 3.2-megawatt roof-mounted solar array at UNFI’s Howell, New Jersey, distribution center
The 3.2-megawatt roof-mounted solar array at UNFI’s Howell, New Jersey, distribution center is the company’s eighth solar installation and is nearly three times larger than any previous UNFI installation. UNFI

United Natural Foods, Inc. had some significant callouts in its 13th annual Better for All Report, which details the company’s progress on social, environmental, and governance objectives, and 2024 does not look to be short on accomplishments, either.

Perhaps the biggest hit in 2023 was the completion of a roof-mounted solar array installation at UNFI’s Howell, New Jersey, distribution center. It is the largest work of its kind for the company, and an even bigger project is set for this year at a distribution center in Riverside, California. UNFI also completed LED lighting conversion across 100% of its distribution center network and continues to deploy electric yard trucks at facilities.

Additionally, UNFI, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, is getting smarter at its distribution centers as it began rolling out digital communication screen technology in 2023 and will continue with installations this year. The goal is to have the screen technology, which improves communication between the regional communication team and distribution centers, in every facility by the end of 2024.

On the agricultural front, UNFI launched a formal partnership with Mad Agriculture to help farmers transition to regenerative agriculture. The goal is to have regenerative and organic practices on 1 million acres by 2030. Currently, UNFI is at 21,500 acres.

Another 2023 milestone was the development of a formal policy to support the goal of zero deforestation across primary deforestation-linked commodities by 2025.

UNFI also started a Reverse Logistics Disposition Reporting system to enable distribution centers to track, monitor, and create reports showing where a product ends up when it has not been sold. UNFI wants to reduce food waste by 50% by the end of 2025.

“UNFI is building a company that creates sustainable value for stakeholders and shareholders, and a better food system for all,” said Sandy Douglas, president and CEO of UNFI. “In FY2023, we issued new responsible sourcing policies and position statements, expanded supplier diversity efforts, reaffirmed our broader commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, started work on our ninth and largest on-site solar array, completed LED lighting conversions across all of our distribution centers (DCs), and deployed a new system that helps us reduce food waste in our DCs.”

supermarket-news-logo-small_1.jpgThis story originally appeared in Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

About the Author(s)

Bill Wilson, Senior Editor, Supermarket News

Supermarket News

Bill Wilson is the senior editor at Supermarket News, covering all things grocery and retail. He has been a journalist in the B2B industry for 25 years. He has received two Robert F. Boger awards for his work as a journalist in the infrastructure industry and has over 25 editorial awards total in his career. He graduated cum laude from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a major in broadcast communications.

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