HEB, Sysco Drive Eco-Friendly Initiative

Jul 05, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

H.E. Butt and Sysco are looking to make breathing a little easier for residents of Houston.

The Texas city’s air quality standards fall below those set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the two companies have announced plans to convert tractor-trailers serving
the market from diesel to liquefied natural gas (LNG).

A report in Houston’s Chronicle newspaper said that, according to one study, every truck the companies convert will be the equivalent of taking 62 gas-burning cars off
the road.

Gary Cullen, president of Sysco, said, “We’re committed to do whatever we can to get the future here a little bit sooner.”

Susan Gertner, environmental affairs manager for H. E. Butt, said converting to LNG has added costs but that in the end it becomes a break-even proposition as trucks running
on LNG cost less to maintain.

Cal Hodge, president of A Second Opinion, a consulting firm in the Houston-area specializing in fuels and regulatory issues, said converting doesn’t make sense from a purely
economic standpoint but he sees the value in displaying leadership from an environmental stewardship point of view.

“Their trucks will wear out before they get any potential savings on fuel costs,” he said.

Both Sysco and H.E. Butt are also eligible for governmental funding to support conversion. Sysco, according to the Houston Chronicle report, has 27 trucks running on LNG
in Houston with 42 more to be added. H.E. Butt has converted 62 trucks in Houston, more than half its local fleet, to run on LNG.

Moderator’s Comment: What is your view on the need for businesses to actively serve as stewards for the environment, such as in the case of Sysco and
H.E. Butt converting trucks to LNG?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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6 Comments on "HEB, Sysco Drive Eco-Friendly Initiative"

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Karen Ribler
Karen Ribler
15 years 7 months ago

With diesel fuel reaching its all time high last week of $2.33 a gallon, looking for alternative sources of fuel is a good idea. The cost of diesel fuel has been rising for the last 2 years and it does not look like there will be a reprieve anytime soon.

The move by Sysco and HEB is to be applauded. It’s smart business…for their long term bottom line, the environment and good old PR.

Bernice Hurst
15 years 7 months ago

It isn’t just about there being a need for businesses to actively serve as stewards for the environment, there is a tremendous amount of sense and goodwill involved which, in turn, should help their individual bottom lines as well as the collective community and economy. As far as I can gather, reading just the limited US papers that I do each day, Europeans expect far more from businesses than do Americans. Those businesses that take the initiative, before they are “expected” to, will benefit in many many different ways.

Mark Lilien
15 years 7 months ago

Many people love the idea of “buying green.” Look at the demand for hybrid cars. They are selling for list and more than list. Every other car is selling well below list. This is terrific PR for the firms involved.

David Livingston
15 years 7 months ago

I’ve been a fan and follower of H-E-B for a long time. I wished I would have known about them when I was in college because I would have beat down their door to go work for them. H-E-B does a lot of things that appear to have no real economic value. Will converting truck to LNG save H-E-B money? Who knows? Will it improve their sales? Probably not. But that’s not always an issue with H-E-B. They are a privately-held company and can do as they please. Since they don’t have to please me, Wall Street, or anybody else, they have the flexibility to make these changes. How many retailers have an “Environmental Affairs Manger?” We are lucky to have companies like H-E-B that puts people and the environment before profits.

J. Peter Deeb
15 years 7 months ago

Eco Friendly activities such as this initiative are sorely needed, however, I am sure, knowing Sysco, that they have evaluated the cost relationship of this change very carefully. They, like HEB, are smart business people who make this type of decision very carefully.

Kudos to both companies for taking a leadership role!

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 7 months ago

Anyone who’s witnessed the black smoke belching from a diesel tractor-trailer rig as it accelerates from a stop will welcome this initiative. As is their wont, HEB actively calculates the value of community citizenship and goodwill into their long-term P&L. People like to do business with people they like.


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