The importance of the wood pallet in U.S. grocery distribution

I guess like most people I don’t often, if ever, think about wood pallets. But when you start to consider sustainability in the round it becomes obvious transporting goods on wood pallets might have a large environmental impact.

It was the announcement by U.S. company C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc. that it was making a donation to The Conservation Fund to help protect working forests in the U.S. states of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire that alerted me to the forest footprint of pallets.

The donation – a dollar figure was not given in the press release – is aimed at offsetting a forest footprint equal to 20,000 wood pallets used to transport and store the food and goods C&S distributes to its customers, The Conservation Fund said.

Then the figures just grew. According to the National Wood Pallet and Container Association, there are more than 1.8 billion pallets in service in the United States each day, and millions more are used to ship goods internationally. The United Nations Economic and Social Council reports that 742 million wooden pallets were made from U.S. forests in 2011.

America’s working forests support $112 billion industry

In addition to providing wood for the creation of pallets every year, America’s working forests provide timber for construction and pulp for paper and packaging creating a $112 billion forest products industry. But, The Conservation Fund says, an estimated 45 million acres of U.S. working forest are at risk of development and fragmentation over the next 15 years.

C&S Wholesale Grocers is no minnow either. C&S is America’s 10th largest privately held company according to Forbes (2016), with sales of around $30 billion and employing 17,000 people. The company is the largest wholesale grocery supply company in the U.S. and the industry leader in supply chain innovation. C&S supplies more than 14,000 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and institutions with over 140,000 different products.

Richard B. Cohen, Chairman and CEO of C&S Wholesale Grocers said: “Working together to plant trees and protect working forests is part of our aim to be a more sustainable enterprise. Our partnership with [The Conservation Fund] enhances our investments in recycling, energy efficiency, and logistics technology”.

Since 2005, C&S has contributed to the planting of around 100,000 trees across more than 250 acres in six national wildlife refuges in states where the company has operations and employees. The latest donation is to celebrate a decade-long partnership between C&S and The Conservation Fund. Who knew the importance of wood pallets to sustainability?

Forbes. (2016). Retrieved from: