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ALSO WORTH READING

3 ways to implement green logistics at the start of your supply chain

We look at how companies can green their processes even before their products leave the warehouse.
We look at how companies can green their processes even before their products leave the warehouse.
22 April 2024 •

The term “green logistics” has appeared a lot as of late.

Also known as sustainable logistics, or eco-logistics, green logistics are ways companies can reduce their environmental impact and encourage more sustainable, carbon-friendly solutions into their supply chain processes. As a result, activities like transport, packaging, storage, and transport are experiencing a green revolution.

Here are some ways companies can get off on the right foot by implementing greener practices at the start of the supply chain to reduce their carbon footprints.

Wrapped up in packaging

Often, packaging is taken for granted. Far too often, we see products encased in layers of plastic in far greater quantities than is required.

Excessive plastic packaging is one of the key concerns in logistics due to its detrimental impact on the environment.
Excessive plastic packaging is one of the key concerns in logistics due to its detrimental impact on the environment.

These plastic wrappings travel from seller to buyer, only to most likely get disposed of instead of recycled. Along with every product comes a trail of environmental impact. Just as products float in their sea of packaging, there is plastic three times the size of France floating in the ocean between Hawaii and California.

As sustainability becomes a growing focus for consumers, companies are becoming increasingly invested in sustainable causes.

For instance, the Singaporean company The Sustainability Project is laser-focused on going green, as its name suggests. Their packaging is 100 percent recycled, and the company has been using materials collected since 2018. This means that everything, down to the tape made from recycled cereal boxes that are used to secure packaging, is experiencing a second lease of life.

This ensures that the impact on the environment is mitigated by reducing single-use packaging materials that are disposed of just after a few hours in transit.

One box, many lifetimes

However, what happens after this recycled packaging reaches the consumer? If it is not passed on and recycled, how much of the environmental impact was mitigated? Is there a more sustainable long-term solution?

Companies such as Returnity have come up with a solution. They have made it possible for boxes used as packaging to be returned and enter the circular economy, to be reused once more. By making the return of such packaging materials more accessible, they are kept in use for as long as possible, reducing waste.

Companies are coming up with boxes return policies to promote the sustainable reuse of packaging materials.
Companies are coming up with boxes return policies to promote the sustainable reuse of packaging materials.

Another example is Chinese company Huidu Huanbao, which has developed a green recyclable packaging box, reusable up to 14 times, which greatly reduces the environmental impact of its product line.

Boxed in: Optimizing space

DHL Supply Chain research found that as much as 24 percent of what is in a package is empty space, leading to 50 percent unnecessary shipping space.

To circumvent the problem, DHL Supply Chain has invested in the AI solution, OptiCarton, an on-demand packaging solution that makes shipments more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Opticarton uses algorithms to compute optimum packing solutions by calculating package dimensions, making shipping recommendations such as the required protective materials, or even splitting deliveries into several consignments to improve efficiency.

On top of reducing waste materials, this reduces carbon emissions, as deliveries and shipments are made in the most carbon-efficient order.

DHL Supply Chain’s OptiCarton solution.
DHL Supply Chain’s OptiCarton solution.

Tackling the carbon footprint: Offices and warehouses stepping lightly into the future

Companies are also taking their green operations a step further by optimizing energy use in the workplace.

One of the biggest office buildings in Europe, One Angel Square, has one of the highest sustainability ratings in the world. By adhering to bio-climatic advanced techniques, it aims to reduce waste. Its main hall is designed to maximize natural light and reduce dependency on artificial lighting.

Companies are enhancing their green practices by optimizing energy use.
Companies are enhancing their green practices by optimizing energy use.

Similarly, DHL has invested greatly to hit its goal of 100 percent zero-carbon warehousing by 2025. Their warehouses use motion sensor LED lights that are operational only during certain hours, enforcing energy savings.

DHL Supply Chain Singapore has also partnered with BeeBryte, an energy intelligence and automation firm, to anticipate thermal needs in buildings and manage existing cooling systems more efficiently. Beebryte’s smart heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) unit control and optimization software automatically adjusts the HVAC in response to real-time conditions, minimizing energy consumption.

Since its inception in 2019, the partnershihas seen up to 40 percent savings in energy costs for DHL Supply Chain’s warehouses.

All new DHL warehouses have a carbon-neutral design. This means that carbon reduction is 75 percent or more, with a maximum of 25 percent of energy offset by renewable energy sources. These warehouses are also constructed with sustainable materials.

By 2030, more than 90 percent of energy supplied to these buildings will be sustainably produced by green energy. More than 50 percent of heating will be sustainably powered in the same year.

Companies partnering with DHL as their logistics partner can reduce their carbon emissions through the GoGreen Plus program, and play an active role in contributing to a carbon-neutral future.

Green light for carbon-friendly culture

However, for sustainability to take root, the culture of carbon-friendliness has to start with the company's people, not just via corporate measures.

Going green should also consist of actively involving and rewarding employees. Citibank inculcates these green values in its employees through its group-wide Step Up and Drink Up initiatives, which encourage employees to take the stairs instead of the elevators, and hydrate by refilling water bottles, translating to a significant number of water bottles saved.

Companies can adopt similar strategies in motivating their employees to be more conscious of energy-saving efforts, by rewarding employees with credits or vouchers which can be exchanged at partner vendors, if employees go the extra mile to ensure that waste office materials like papers are reused responsibly.

Many strategies can be implemented to encourage energy saving among employees.
Many strategies can be implemented to encourage energy saving among employees.

In Belgium, the national recycling company, Fost Plus, launched the De Click app. It rewards users who dispose of their trash responsibly with vouchers that can be redeemed at partner vendors, for museum entries, or donated to environment protection groups. This motivates individuals to be more active in their role in reducing the effects of climate change on the Earth.

Companies can incorporate this practice into their processes by making recycling more accessible. Recycling bins should be abundant and equipped with clear signs to inform users of the appropriate bins to sort their waste into. Recycling schedules can also be set up, to inculcate these habits throughout the organization.

In addition, employees should be consulted on how sustainability can be made easier and more frequent. Having employees directly involved in mapping out the organization’s sustainability journey increases their investment in helping the company reduce its carbon impact, increasing the likelihood of participation and following through with the program.