Sustainability practices and indicators in food retail logistics: findings from an exploratory study

Aristides Matopoulos, Michael Bourlakis

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The aim of this paper is to provide an overview and an analysis of recent developments and changes in the implementation of sustainability practices by food retailers. It also aims to explore whether the sustainability measurement criteria and indicators identified in the literature can be applied in practice. A literature review identified the current trends, developments and the proposed sustainability objectives, criteria and indicators. Via case study research, we collected empirical data from four retailers. This involved both qualitative and quantitative data drawn from questionnaires and in-depth interviews with logistics directors from four retailers' distribution centres. The empirical data collected from the interviews indicate similarities in some of the characteristics of distribution centres, as well as differences. However, it was difficult to make cross-company comparisons due to the absence of benchmarks or assessments of the relative importance of each sustainability criterion and indicator. This research focused only on two sustainability objectives. Further research on other sustainability objectives is therefore required. Lessons learnt from the four case studies can be taken into consideration when developing future sustainability performance rating scales. The paper provides an in-depth analysis of sustainability in the food chain, with emphasis on food retailing. Its value lies in presenting an attempt to test in practice how a number of sustainability objectives, criteria and indicators are applied in logistics-related processes, identifying the gaps and reporting the potential difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-218
Number of pages12
JournalJournal on Chain and Network Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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  • sustainability practices
  • food retailing
  • distribution centres


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