BlogSupply Chain Sustainability/Circular EconomySustainable Supply Chains

Consumers are demanding ever more quantities of delivered goods, increasing the pressure on global supply chains. Managing business logistics has become even more complex as more warehouses are built and shipping companies compete furiously for the labor and resources needed to meet new consumer demands. And as global supply chains expand and evolve, so too do their impact on our planet’s environment.  

While public perception is often fixated on whether a particular product is recyclable, the greatest impact many businesses and organizations have on the environment is through their hidden supply chains. Creating a sustainable supply chain will considerably reduce a company’s carbon footprint as well as energy and resource consumption, which comes with many benefits. Slowing climate change will help lessen adverse environmental effects that hamper business operations. Implementing eco-friendly business policies enhances a company’s brand as an increasing number of consumers, and Wall Street, recognize the importance of sustainability. Finally, a sustainable supply chain is a leaner, more economical supply chain, which significantly impacts a company’s bottom line. 

Companies can create sustainable supply chains by implementing the following strategies: 

Partner with Governments 

Governments throughout the world, like the consumers in their countries, are increasingly demanding that companies implement eco-friendly policies. But governments can play an important partnership role as well. They often offer tax and investment incentives to companies intent on investing in sustainable supply chains. The US Environmental Protection Agency has some good starting points for environment-based economic incentives,  and individual states often offer their own incentives as well. Governments can also help connect companies with important technological, nonprofit, and community partners who can help with sustainable supply chain implementation.  

These types of partnerships are critical with local governments as well. Companies developing warehouse sites, for example, can work closely with municipal officials and planners to optimize warehouse locations. An optimized warehouse location will help minimize the amount of time delivery vehicles spend in transit or idling, reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the area, and making that part of a supply chain more sustainable.  

Invest in Technology 

As noted above, a key aspect to creating sustainable supply chains is minimizing the amount of time an operation’s vehicles remain in transit. Whenever possible, trips between warehouses and distribution centers should be avoided, while shipping directly to retailers or consumers should be encouraged. Companies should also consider letting inventory accumulate and combining shipping loads whenever possible, again reducing the number of trips their vehicles have to make. 

This can only be accomplished if a company’s transportation network is thoroughly and regularly assessed. Companies may consider investing in good logistics forecasting software to fully understand challenges like seasonal peaks, changes in shipping demands, and transportation bottlenecks and other issues. Armed with this knowledge, businesses can streamline their shipping process, avoid unnecessary trips and costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Companies that manage truck fleets can also invest in making their vehicles more eco-friendly. This can involve installing telematics technology that enables them to detect equipment issues and vehicle maintenance needs more efficiently, allowing for the correction of problems that contribute to harmful emissions in the early stages. More inexpensive options can include making trucks more aerodynamic by installing roof fairings and gap reducers between the truck and trailer, resulting in shorter shipping trips. 

Use Lightweight, Recyclable Packaging and Shipping Material 

This greenhouse gas calculator demonstrates how even small differences in transport weight can have a significant impact on a company’s carbon footprint. More weight requires more fuel to push heavier loads, resulting in higher fuel consumption, and more harmful greenhouse gas emissions spewed into the air. Fortunately, companies investing in sustainable supply chains can use packaging and shipping material that is not only lightweight but also recyclable. 

Packaging materials that are not biodegradable or recyclable can linger for centuries in landfills. From landfills they can find their way into waterways, where they threaten marine life and ecology. Shipping companies can make their supply chains more sustainable by investing in a wide variety of biodegradable or recyclable packing materials. There are paper boxes, thermoformed paper food trays and bakeware and completely biodegradable void fill. There is even seaweed-based food packaging   that biodegrades within weeks or can simply be consumed, and mushroom packaging made from fungus roots and farm residue. These packaging materials are also lighter than more conventional and rigid metal and  glass packaging.   

Companies seeking to reduce supply chain weight loads should also pay attention to their shipping material. Anything that adds pounds to a shipping load increases fuel consumption, transport expenses and a company’s carbon footprint. Companies can use lightweight plastic pallets for shipping, which are up to 35 percent lighter than heavy wooden pallets.  

Plastic pallets can also be recycled. Wood pallets usually wind up in landfills after their shorter lifespans, contributing to pollution and possibly endangering marine life in the future. iGPS plastic pallets are simply broken down and remolded for future use, a true example of sustainability.  

Investing in sustainable supply chains has become even more critical as global supply chains respond to increasing consumer demand. Companies that do so will help fight climate change, enhance their brand, and lower their supply chain costs, reducing their Total Cost of Business. 

Companies committed to creating sustainable supply chains use iGPS plastic pallets for all their shipping needs. Our lightweight, recyclable plastic pallets help make greener supply chains and reduce the Total Cost of Business. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.