Purpose – The increasing focus on environmental sustainability and social responsibility within business agendas often leads to expectations that solutions lie in the downscaling, decentralising and deconsolidating of supply chains and logistics systems. This is no more acute than within the climate change agenda, the single biggest environmental challenge to industry today. The purpose of this paper is to challenge these notions and suggest that environmental burden actually decreases across increasing logistical scale and supply chain sophistication. Design/methodology/approach – Primary and secondary life cycle analysis and carbon auditing case evidence detailing and describing operations throughout the food supply chain is used to show what happens to resource efficiency when we chose possible “downscaling” routes. Findings – The paper contends that the principle of economic efficiency leading to environmental efficiency (or “lean is green”) is more generally applicable against our previous expectations and that supply chain sophistication and logistical scale is more likely to lead to environmental benefit rather than cost. Practical implications – From a commercial and industrial point of view, the paper provides evidence to promote conventional supply chain management good practice as a means of driving the demand needed for the technological change required to achieve climate change targets. This is good news for suppliers and distributors, particularly in the light of global economic conditions. From a consumer and policy perspective, the upshot of the paper is a call for more pragmatic thinking and a reminder that critical evidence-based decision making should be used when judging how best to formulate supply strategies. Originality/value – This paper represents a fresh way of thinking utilising more robust evidence amongst a set of issues that have become precariously muddled and confused.