Ocado, the eco-friendly firm that runs on diesel

A A A

Ocado, the online "green van" delivery service that supplies groceries to customers' doors and claims to have changed the face of shopping, has been falling short of its own environmental pledges.

According to its branding, Ocado delivery vans run on biodiesel only – a marketing strategy to incentivise eco-conscious customers to use its service. But in London, drivers are filling up their vans' tanks with regular fossil-fuel diesel at a normal garage.

The offending vans were spotted and photographed last weekend by one of The Independent's readers, who witnessed the drivers filling up with regular diesel at a BP Connect garage in Shepherd's Bush, west London.

Yet under a section headed "Using Sustainable Fuel – our low emission vans", the Ocado website proclaims: "Our low-emission vans run on biodiesel, which we introduced a few years ago, when studies proved that it was one of the most efficient fuels available."

The reader, who did not wish to be named, said: "The Ocado website is a homage to the company's commitment to developing environmentally friendly and sustainable business solutions, but the photos clearly demonstrate that Ocado and its partners are selling a lie. Jason Gissing, who is co-founder of the company, certainly has some explaining to do."

When contacted by The Independent, Mr Gissing, who is now in charge of the company's external communications, admitted the truth of the allegations. "Yes, it's true that in London our vans do use regular diesel," he said.

"This is because we do not have planning permission for a tank for biodiesel at our west London depot, which opened in September. But at our other seven depots across the country we do use biodiesel in all our vans."

Ocado has more than 700 delivery vans in total and only 30 were using regular diesel in London, Mr Gissing added. "On a national basis, this accounts for less than 2 per cent of our fuel," he said. "Ninety-eight per cent is of the fuel we use is biodiesel."

He said he took a decision "not to relivery the entire fleet" when the new depot with no biofuel facilities opened, but he accepted that the vans in London were not doing what they said, and undertook to modify the website. Yesterday this was done and a note on the "green vans" page on the Ocado website now points out that some vans in London use normal diesel.

Mr Gissing said a longer-term challenge for the company was to decide whether to use biodiesel at all. "When we decided to run our fleet on biodiesel five years ago, it seemed like a sensible thing to do," he said. "But it may prove to be not so sensible."

Doubts continue to grow about the real environmental benefits of using biofuels, such as biodiesel and the petrol substitute ethanol. In theory, they are the answer to the global- warming problems of the transport sector, being produced from crops and other organic matter, and are in principle carbon-neutral, since the CO2 they release when burned was absorbed from the air when the crops were growing – and so is not a net addition to the atmosphere.

But it has become increasingly clear that biofuels may be as much a part of the problem as the solution, displacing food crops in countries such as the US, which contributes to the world rise in food prices when millions are already going hungry.

Wildlife is being harmed on a large scale in places including Indonesia, where virgin rainforest is being cut down to produce the palm oil which is one of the constituents of biodiesel. And there is a substantial use of energy involved in their production and transportation.

The Government was initially a strong supporter of biofuel use and set a target of 5 per cent of UK transport fuels to be biofuel-based by 2010. But two years ago the former Environment Agency chief executive Ed Gallagher produced a report on biofuels which pointed out the problems and recommended that the Government put the brakes on biofuel policy. The target has since been scaled back, to hit 5 per cent by 2013/14.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week