Sustainable transformation of retailers’ operations, logistics, and distribution
This research focuses on (1) reducing food insecurity and climate risks in the brick-and-mortar cold supply chains and e-commerce, (2) reducing air pollution and the GHG emissions of transportation through an optimization of food delivery routes, and (3) creating a more equitable system for workers by considering the so-called “Walmart and Amazon Effects.”
Refrigeration sector contributes roughly 7.8% to global GHGs due to energy use and high-global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants. By 2050, food demand is expected to increase by 59% due to accompanying population increase. But food security is not just about availability and accessibility, it is also about the inefficiencies of the food supply chain. Currently, 40% of food is lost and/or wasted due to inadequate and/or lack of refrigeration. Thus, we propose solutions to enhance refrigeration efficiency of the cold supply chain and speed-up the phasing out of high-GWP refrigerants, which could avoid up to 0.5 ˚C of global temperature rise by 2100. High-efficiency refrigeration and low-GWP refrigerants can provide more and better refrigeration in developing countries, increase food security, and reduce energy use and GHGs. A step further is to provide location-specific strategies for a zero-energy cold supply chain. Finally, as the building relies more on renewable sources, the building material impact becomes more relevant, thus we will propose alternative envelopes and insulation materials. The main outcomes of the research are reducing food waste and enhancing global food security.
The increase in freight transportation due to e-commerce is the fastest-growing source of GHGs and air pollution in urban areas. In food distribution, different modes of transportation are interconnected and concurrent. An urban-level transportation optimization model of food delivery pathways (supermarkets, e-commerce, and farm-to-fork) will illustrate ways to reduce air pollution and GHGs. To deliver this optimization it is necessary to map the food distribution and delivery pathway data (truck APIs, U.S. Census, and commodity flow survey) to the existing road network of the urban area. GHG and air emissions will be connected to the first-mile and last-mile transportation. The GIS network analyst tool will identify transportation routes for existing food locations with objectives to reduce air pollution and GHGs and inform about the role of route optimization in policy-making.
A sustainable supply chain has environmental, social, and economic dimensions. The presence of a large brick-and-mortar or/and large online retailers can hurt small businesses and lower wages for local workers. I will examine the environmental, social, and economic implications of large retailers’ locations. Specifically, this research will focus on effects on air pollution (transportation), employment (women and BIPOC), and wages and data implemented in an optimization tool. A multi-criteria decision spatial analysis in GIS will determine optimal locations for siting new distribution centers and supermarkets, based on proximity to low-income populations and rural areas, to mitigate the challenge of food deserts. This will support decision-making to enhance inclusivity in planning future distribution centers and supermarkets.