Much ink has been spilled on the subject of going green. As the general populace becomes more environmentally conscious, companies are finding themselves held to higher standards. Companies are becoming more careful about their carbon footprint, making green logistics a popular topic.
Let’s talk about how you can do your part to preserve the environment while remaining profitable and efficient.
We’d love to start a conversation about green logistics by appealing to altruism. In truth, though, we know there are far more compelling arguments for green logistics from the company’s perspective. So let’s start with those and work our way up.
First and foremost, customers are starting to expect companies to go green. Shipping is expected to account for as much as 17% of all global CO2 emissions in 2050. What’s more, 87% of millennials and 94% of Generation Z consumers expect companies to address environmental issues. In short, as these consumers age and begin to account for a greater percentage of consumer dollars, going green will be necessary for making green.
Fortunately, there are a lot of similarities between going green and going lean. That is to say, when making your shipping processes more environmentally friendly, one of the first things you can do is eliminate waste.
You can save a lot of money by going green because it will also force you to eliminate waste from your processes. This is not an abstract idea, either. DuPont saved over $3 billion in the last two decades by cutting down on their CO2 emissions.
Just as consumers expect better-behaved companies, so do prospective employees. In a few short years, millennials will make up the vast majority of the workplace. Among them, 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. Going green is a great way to signal that you are operating a socially responsible company!
Last, but certainly not least, climate change is serious. There’s no getting around this fact. We’re not going to get into all the details since we like to focus on business-oriented solutions that you can implement today. But suffice it to say, at some point, we are all going to need to take responsibility. May as well be now if it makes our customers happy, saves money, and helps us find employees.
Before making in sweeping process changes, it is prudent to identify the biggest areas for improvement. Ideally, you want to find ways to go green while simultaneously saving money. As we mentioned a bit earlier in this post, adhering to lean supply chain standards is a very good way of doing this.
As a refresher, the basic idea behind lean supply chain management is to remove waste, eliminate unnecessary complexity, save physical space, and bring more visibility to opaque processes. In short, a lean supply chain is all about efficiency.
Green logistics, on the other hand, is concerned primarily with minimizing the ecological impact of logistics. Some examples of green logistics include increasing packing efficiency, optimizing routes and loads, and optimizing technical systems.
Lean supply chain methods and green logistics are mutually compatible. By looking in-depth at each business concept, you can likely identify some “quick wins” that will save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
It’s one thing to talk about going green in the abstract. It’s another thing entirely to actually go through with it.
With this in mind, we’re going to go over fifteen practical tips that you can use right now to make your operations a little greener.
Packaging creates an enormous amount of waste, much of which is not especially environmentally friendly. At a minimum, you can start by shipping the smallest, lightest boxes you possibly can, which will have the pleasant bonus of saving money. If you really want to take it up a notch, look into sustainable packaging.
Making use of recycled materials is a great way to promote green logistics. It costs quite a bit more to use recycled boxes for shipping, but customers will notice the telltale triangular arrow logo.
Styrofoam isn’t great for the environment. It’s really good at insulating against bumps, drops, and changes in temperature, but it’s intrinsically non-sustainable. It is, after all, a byproduct of petroleum.
However fibrous packing materials and corrugated inserts are becoming much more competitively priced. You can start using these instead of less environmentally friendly options.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. These 3 R’s have been repeated over and over again as part of environmentally friendly principles. Reducing material use is by far the best for the environment, so little tweaks to the amount of packing material you use will make big changes in your carbon footprint.
If you’re going to use a lot of packaging, it may as well be biodegradable. A lot of perfectly good material will be thrown out instead of recycled. By using biodegradable packaging, you prevent harmful chemicals from being released into the environment when they’re sitting in landfills.
If at all possible, ship small items. Small packages take up less space on vehicles and therefore lead to a lower carbon footprint. Even if your item cannot be reduced in size, you might be able to pack it more tightly so the outer packaging will be smaller.
If you’re shipping more than one order, consolidate them into a single box.
If you’re going to be sending out packages on a regular basis, schedule delivery pickups. Couriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx already have daily routes which they run. If they pick up packages from you as part of their normal route, you can save fuel and time. This is good for both kinds of green logistics – the environmental kind and the monetary kind!
We’ve talked about how returns are often under-considered in the supply chain. If you map out your returns process, you can reduce a lot of waste which can have positive environmental impacts.
You can do everything right within the walls of your own company, but if your partners are polluters, then you are indirectly causing negative impacts on the environment. Therefore, if you are serious about green logistics, pay attention to what your partners are doing.
If your business involves shipping a lot of freight, you can measure and optimize transportation to reduce your carbon footprint. This can be complex but has a dramatic, easily traceable positive impact.
FCL means “full container load.” In short, it means pack containers as tightly as you can before shipping. That means efficiently using every little bit of space in freight shipping.
If at all possible, avoid freight shipments by air. It’s definitely true that air shipping is faster than shipping by road, rail, or sea. However, if you have accurate inventory forecasting models in place, you can easily plan to ship by sea or rail instead of by air. This will dramatically cut back your carbon footprint.
Similarly, if you have large shipments to ship by land, rail is both cheaper and better for the environment than road.
Last but not least, if you absolutely cannot avoid CO2 emissions, look into carbon offsets. The money you spend on carbon offsets goes to projects like sustainable energy or planting trees. In short, for every ton of CO2 you put into the atmosphere, you can pay for a way to take it out of the atmosphere.
Slowly but surely, the world is changing. Customers are holding companies to higher environmental standards. Small tweaks to your business processes can go a long way toward making your company more environmentally-friendly.