Businesses are increasingly under pressure to create more sustainable supply chains. A globally-sustainable supply chain minimizes or avoids the depletion of natural resources, such as fossil fuels, to reduce negative environmental impacts. To shape our future and create positive environmental change, sustainable logistics and supply chain management are needed.
Why are sustainable supply chains needed?
Currently, supply chains use a great number of resources and create unnecessary waste. McKinsey & Company reports that the supply chain accounts for 90% of consumer goods companies’ environmental impact. In contrast, a sustainable supply chain considers the environmental consequences of their product’s journey, starting from raw material sourcing all the way to the last-mile of delivery.
What are sustainable logistics?
Also known as green logistics, sustainable logistics are the practices and processes of improving supply chain sustainability. This includes the resourcing of raw materials, storage, packaging, distribution and management of the end of a product lifecycle, so there is minimal environmental impact.
How can a supply chain be sustainable?
With pressure from customers, employees and governments, more companies have taken steps to decrease their carbon emissions, lower waste and limit energy usage within their supply chain.
At the same time, new technological advancements are maturing quickly and presenting cost-saving and planet-friendly opportunities for businesses to support a circular economy. A circular economy is an economic system designed to achieve maximum use of resources with minimal waste generated.
According to our research, 65% of businesses feel that sustainable efforts are contributing to global targets and will positively impact environmental sustainability efforts in the next five years.
Here are the main ways you and your shipping provider can manage supply chains with sustainable logistics in mind.
Checklist: 6 ways to make your supply chain more sustainable
To have a truly sustainable business, eco-friendly practices need to be at the heart of everything you do. The following checklist can help you implement sustainable logistics for better supply chain management.
1. Delivery and return options
Customers are ready to play their part in creating sustainable supply chains. According to our research, 53% of customers would accept delayed shipping of up to a week to support sustainable supply chain practices. Let customers select from an array of eco-friendly delivery options that suit their preferences:
Delaying delivery to allow for package consolidation and less fuel-intensive modes of transportation
Designated cardboard recycling centres
Minimal, but effective packaging (think airless packaging)
Multiple pick-up locations that are close to home
Packageless and consolidated returns
Waiving delivery signature for more successful first-delivery attempts
When considering how to make your workplace more sustainable, you have the chance to participate in a circular economy, which prioritizes the reuse and recycling of materials, as well as waste reduction.
You can implement recycling programs at your workplace for:
Cans and bottles
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Waste oil fluids
You can also boost your workplace’s sustainability by:
Buying eco-friendly office supplies like stapleless staplers
Cutting out single-use plastic
Encouraging green commuting through bikes and carpooling
Installing LED bulbs
Installing motion-activated lighting
Investing in water filling stations
Maximizing natural lighting
Purchasing smart power strips
Starting an office sustainability team
Unplugging electronics at the end of the day
To go a step further, you can consider adapting your workplace with environmentally-friendly materials according to LEED’s framework for green buildings. For example, you can invest in energy-efficient appliances and low-flow faucets. Having a LEED-certified building will help you save money, improve efficiency and lower carbon emissions.
To save on packaging waste, you can establish a collection centre where customers can drop off materials that are fully recyclable or reusable. When purchasing new packaging materials, opt for recycled, biodegradable and/or responsibly-sourced materials for:
Cushioning and foam
Labels and packing slips
New technology is accelerating the adoption of circular economies while helping to lower costs and automate tasks. IKEA, for example, has a “no air” packaging philosophy. By eliminating the air around products being shipped, less packaging material is used, allowing more boxes to fit on a pallet and smaller shipments. Here are examples of new technologies that can make your supply chain more sustainable:
Cloud-based platforms that connect waste producers to waste haulers
Cutting-edge biological materials that replace oil-based plastics
Intelligence that ensures products are not being shipped unnecessarily, such as RFID tagging for inventory control or IoT sensors on containers.
5. Transportation methods
Instead of only using air and gas-operated fleets, opt for sustainable modes of transportation that can reduce your carbon footprint:
Carriers who use sustainable fuels over traditional jet fuel
Small low-fuel trucks
Rail and intermodal
More companies are investing in sustainability. According to our sustainable shipping research, over the past year, North American companies who have made sustainability a focus are spending an average of $12K-17K or upwards of $250K more on eco-conscious courier services. Even if you’re not ready for a major investment in sustainability, every shipment comes with the opportunity, big or small, to offset negative environmental impacts.
Buy carbon offsets
Buy renewable energy certificates
Support local recycling programs
Conduct product lifecycle sustainability assessments
Hire a sustainability department
Invest in sustainable courier services
All of these investments support our communities and position your business as an environmental steward. As the industry is being shaped by the voices of consumers and employees, implementing sustainable practices gives your company an edge in recruitment. This is crucial at a time where research shows that 41% of office workers would refuse a job offer if a company’s sustainable values do not align with their own.
How many boxes can you check off today? By working towards sustainable logistics and supply chain management, you’re helping to build sustainability momentum and transform the industry for the better.