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RedMart's vans deliver more than your order
IT MAY be surprising that an online grocer in the business of delivering perishable goods to its customers does not use refrigerated trucks.
RedMart is one of the world's first such grocers to do just that - a practice which adds up to significant cost savings and cuts down its environmental footprint as well.
Christopher Chan, general counsel and head of government affairs for Lazada Singapore and RedMart, said: "After more than 1,000 experiments with various cooling technologies and insulation material, we settled on a more sustainable solution - using regular delivery trucks, but lining our delivery totes with reusable insulation and industry-grade ice plates, which maintain the optimum temperature for fresh groceries for up to eight hours."
He noted that regular trucks use less fuel and cost about a third the price of refrigerated ones.
The choice RedMart has made is in sync with one of its corporate social responsibility pillars - environmental footprint.
Mr Chan said: "RedMart is solely responsible for the end-to-end customer experience, and wants to ensure that the products customers order reach them in the best possible condition.
"Because of food safety regulations, we have to pack certain items into separate plastic bags. Depending on the optimum storage temperature of each product, the bagged products are then securely placed in plastic totes or single-walled corrugated 100 per cent recyclable cartons."
Each of these cartons is reused twice or thrice before being disposed. After delivery, the delivery representatives are trained to collect and return the totes and carton boxes to the RedMart fulfilment centre for reuse.
"We are constantly looking for innovative ways to minimise the amount of packaging involved; we encourage our suppliers to use reusable plastic trays and pallets when they send us their products."
Mr Chan said customers are the No.1 priority, given the company's vision of becoming the world's most trusted and customer-centric supermarket.
Another CSR pillar is therefore the provision of nutritious and responsibly-sourced products.
The company offers more than 173,000 products - by far the widest range among grocery retailers in Singapore; RedMart even stocks products for people with special dietary needs.
Mr Chan said: "We launched our RedMart 'Private Label' range in May 2015, with the aim of delivering value for money to customers without compromising on quality, innovation or sustainability.
"For example, within the Private Label range, paper products (kitchen towels, tissues, toilet tissue) are fully certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.
"All food products are free of MSG and preservatives, with no artificial colours or flavouring."
He added that Redmart, which was acquired by Lazada (Singapore's top e-commerce platform) in November 2016, also helps brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and offline sellers to list and sell their products online.
For example, local startup F.East, the maker of laksa and Hainanese chicken rice and egg prata with fish curry-flavoured potato chips, got its start by being listed on RedMart.
These chips are now available across other retailers in Singapore.
"The company has helped bring many small firms online and helped them to scale up their businesses exponentially.
"We were a startup. Now we are helping other startups to get on the online retail bandwagon," said Mr Chan.
How it got started
Homegrown online grocer RedMart was founded in 2011 by Roger Egan, Vikram Rupani and Rajesh Lingappa, who have all since settled in Singapore and made it their home.
The company is a firm believer in giving back to society in a way linked to its business model.
In 2018, it set up a committee comprising members from across the departments; teams were formed so that the company's CSR efforts could be positioned and coordinated more effectively.
RedMart has in place its "RadGrad" management trainee programme, a one-year rotation among the departments for the graduates among its hires.
During this programme, these RadGrads are required to be supervised by C-suite leaders as they undertake an end-of-year project; these entail deep-diving into strategic business projects which are underpinned by values such as giving back to society.
Mr Chan said: "We give them some guidance about a specific part of the business, and they figure out if there is a way to improve it."
The 2016 RadGrad batch came up with the idea of a food-waste reduction programme.
Under it, fruit and vegetables that are slightly blemished but still fit for consumption are donated to non-profit community organisations instead of being thrown away.
Organisations RedMart supports through this initiative include Free Food for All, Jamiyah Singapore and Food Bank Singapore.
Mr Chan said RedMart, as an online supermarket, has less wastage than physical grocery stores as through its smart supply chain and demand forecasting system, is able to bring in just about the right quantity that is needed based on past shopping and data.
"We use a smart algorithm and buy what we need. Hence, our fresh produce waste is at less than 5 per cent while for offline supermarkets it is between 20-30 per cent."
In January 2019, RedMart expanded the food waste reduction programme by entering into collaboration with local social enterprise UglyFood, which seeks to maximise the value of food resources by diverting "ugly" or blemished fresh fruits and vegetables from the trash and transforming them into delicious and nutritious products such as juices and ice-cream.
"We are working to sell those juices on RedMart as well. Instead of using beautiful fruit, we use bruised food so there is less waste in general."
A year ago, the 2017 RadGrad cohort led a campaign to provide basic necessities to beneficiaries who are mentally challenged or terminally ill.
Melinda Chan, a specialist in Continuous Improvement who led this project, said: "The collaboration between our customers, the Red Cross Home for the Disabled and Swedish adult diaper brand TENA was one of the ways RedMart brings together various stakeholders to make a positive difference in the community.
"The online campaign was the first initiative by RedMart to engage customers in its CSR efforts. Every pack of TENA adult diapers ordered and donated online by customers was matched by TENA and delivered by RedMart to the Red Cross Home."
In house, RedMart is a supporter of Yellow Ribbon Project and its initiatives to co-create an inclusive community where ex-offenders are contributing citizens.
Since 2014, RedMart has been partnering Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) in rebuilding the lives of ex-offenders by offering employment opportunities.
Mr Chan said: "RedMart aims to help our employees succeed. We believe in giving people a chance to redeem themselves. We do not treat ex-offenders differently from other staff."
The company also sends its staff for classes to upgrade their skills.
Abdul Rasyid bin Mohammad Jaffar is among the employees who have grown with the company.
He joined the company as a delivery representative in December 2016 and was promoted to transport coordinator in October 2018.
He said: "Working at RedMart has provided me with a promising career path and opportunities to upgrade myself.
"Being a valued member of the transport team has also given me a stable income, and helped to build my confidence as an individual and as a team player. My peers, mentors and manager are always on hand to guide me in my work."
A number of RedMart's delivery representatives have since gone on to become bosses of their own transport companies - and RedMart even engages them to help with its deliveries.
Mr Chan said: "When RedMart first started, there were just a few delivery representatives. They were loyal to RedMart from the beginning and as the company grew, these employees left to set up their own logistics companies, which created even more jobs."
- This article is part of a series highlighting inspiring companies that are catalysts of change in corporate giving. The Business Times supports the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre's Company of Good programme as a media partner. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can be a Company of Good, or visit www.companyofgood.sg for more information.