January 2012 | Commentary | Green Landscape

Launching a Sustainability Initiative Can Be as Easy as 1-2-3

Tags: Green Logistics

Sunny Nastase is vice president, customer solutions, sustainable solutions, UPS, 404-828-7183

Over the past decade, sustainability has evolved from a buzzword to an established component of good business. While some organizations and industries may have operations that naturally lend themselves to sustainability efforts, all companies should be empowered to review their shipping and supply chain operations through the lens of sustainability.

Sustainability programs are not one-size-fits-all endeavors, however. Transporting perishable food products requires a much different approach than shipping the latest high-tech gadgets, for example. Because each organization possesses unique needs, it is important to take a strategic approach to sustainability planning.

Here are three steps to launching a sustainability initiative at your company.

1. Determine the effort's primary purpose. While sustainability generates clear environmental benefits, it can also create long-term, bottom-line returns from reduced consumption. Identifying the program's goal will help outline the vision, determine metrics, and garner the necessary internal support to proceed.

2. Create a plan. Once you establish a well-defined purpose, your organization must determine how to pursue it. Start by setting short- and long-term goals, and the appropriate budgets, staffing, and potential partners.

Evaluate data related to sustainability to determine your company's energy use and carbon impact. Using this information to create a baseline provides metrics for tracking the results of implemented sustainability efforts.

Your product's unique nature will determine which sustainable options are most applicable. If your company sells non-perishable goods, it can benefit from more fuel-efficient transportation modes, such as rail or ocean. If immediacy is critical to success, carbon-neutral shipping—which allows businesses to purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their environmental impact—may be a better solution.

3. Recruit an experienced partner. Even with a strong internal team focused on creating greater sustainability, your company may need outside expertise to drive the greatest environmental impact reduction—especially if this is your first time creating a sustainability initiative.

Choose a partner with the logistics infrastructure to meet your needs. For example, global businesses should seek to partner with experts who possess a global network and can advise on which transportation modes will move materials most efficiently and with the least environmental impact.

Your partner should also understand the intricacies of sustainability that may be foreign to your daily activities, such as how to purchase retired carbon offsets. Purchasing carbon offsets allows companies to mitigate the environmental footprint they create through transportation and shipping. Working with your logistics partner, you may be able to identify an environmental program that aligns with your company's philanthropic interests.

Your organization can examine its environmental impact and take steps to mitigate it. By establishing goals, creating a plan unique to your business, and enlisting the right partner, companies can be better stewards of the environment while still operating successfully. Following these three easy steps will put you and your company on the path to sustainability leadership.