At Snel Logistic Solutions they are good at what they do, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a reason why this Belgian company with branches in Deinze, Ham and the Dutch town of Weert was awarded transporter of the year twice in a row. With 60,000 m² warehouses, more than 200 lorries on the road and around 340 employees, innovation and sustainable development are at the forefront of this family-run business. Or, in the words of CEO Gert Snel: ‘Even if it means turning our lorries upside down, as long as it works, I’m all for it!’
Developments in sustainability and innovation were among a range of assessment criteria for becoming ‘transporter of the year’. The criteria also included the way the business treats its employees and the total cost of ownership. ‘Yes, I do believe that sustainable and innovative development is incredibly important, especially because our industry doesn’t exactly have a great reputation in that respect,’ Gert explains. ‘I truly believe that you can no longer skirt your responsibilities as an entrepreneur. To us, sustainability is much, much more than just a marketing term; we want to play a significant part in changing our industry. True, we always balance economic and ecological interests, but we do sometimes make real concessions in favour of the latter. In this day and age, how can you blow 70,000 litres of diesel into the air without batting an eyelid?’
There is always excuse to leave it
‘We definitely don’t believe you can. So that’s why a large part of our lorries now run on HVO. This stands for ‘Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil’, a type of diesel fuel that is produced on the basis of hydrogen-treated vegetable oils and by-products such as animal fats. Using this has reduced our carbon emissions by 89%. Also, we use bioLNG, drive with eco-combis and most of our lorries are fitted with ecological tyres. We will soon be driving an electric lorry on a specific route
where the range is less crucial. Not being able to charge electric vehicles quickly can be a real disincentive for purchasing them. Which is a shame, because it’s definitely possible! The trick is to use quick loaders, which make it possible to resume driving as soon as possible. It’s all about thinking out of the box, finding solutions that may not be practical at first glance or against which there is a lot of opposition. After all, you can always think of an excuse to just leave it. Well, that isn’t me. Even if my employees turn a lorry upside down, as long as it works, I’m all for it. ‘Let’s go mad and give it a go,’ is my motto. In fact, I challenge everyone to come up with creative ideas. My dream for the business is to be a driving force behind the sustainable and innovative mindset of my employees, which they promote and implement at all levels. Ultimately it should become an inextricable, logical part of our DNA.’
Working on solutions together
‘It’s great to work together with parties who have the same convictions and ambitions regarding the areas we find so important. We have wonderful clients, including Spa, Coca-Cola and Nike. We also have a very pleasant collaboration with Container Centralen for flower deliveries to Aldi. The removal, storage and processing of the empty plant trolleys is always very labour intensive, especially around special days like Mother’s Day and 1 November. So it’s important that you have the kind of partnership in which you realise that both sides have responsibilities and that it’s a question of give and take. And that you don’t lose sight of each other’s motivations for particular decisions, so you can work on the best possible solutions together.
We’re currently working on an exciting collaborative sustainable pilot that aims to optimise the flow of goods. We have condensed the volume of plant trolleys and set up a restack programme together with Container Centralen’s account team. Previously the flowers and plants were taken off the trolleys and the trolleys were returned to the lorry in their entirety. This method results in plenty of transport, but very little sustainability. Let’s face it, trolleys are pretty much just a bunch of shelves with wheels and posts – no offence
– that could be stacked much more efficiently. We weren’t yet fully taking advantage of the sustainable possibilities they offered and we have definitely improved on this. By processing the trolleys in this way, we have reduced the number of trips from six to one. You may think that isn’t a great idea, but this is one of those cases where I put ecological interest above (short-term) economic ones. In this respect, looking for solutions together contributes to the creation and maintenance of a sustainable partnership. I am truly delighted that we are able to accomplish this in this way with all parties involved.’
Sustainability plan in action
‘We’ve been working on sustainability since 2014. Currently we’re rewriting our sustainability report based on the SDGs (the UN’s Social Development Goals). Good drivers are hard to find in the transport sector, and staff turnover is high. We address this issue by being very flexible with our people and offering great training and fitness programmes. Take someone in their fifties, for example: we offer them a four-day working week which gives them peace of mind and helps them achieve a good work/life balance. We use a points system to motivate everyone. For instance, if you drive damage-free for a particular number of years, you get a reward.
We’re taking action in numerous areas. Very recently, we purchased a 4.5-hectare forest to offset our environmental emissions. We continue to look for ways to really, truly make a change. It’s not always an easy journey, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m happy as long as we get there!’