Making Sustainability a Reality

The logistics and transport market sector contributes 5.5 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, according to 2009 research produced by the World Economic Forum. The sector’s lack of understanding about the current emissions baseline is the biggest obstacle to establishing a meaningful green supply chain strategy.

Even with a starting point of such magnitude, more than 80 percent of global companies have made their transport/logistics operations greener. In addition, 66 percent have adopted a green sourcing approach, and 59 percent have implemented reverse logistics operations. But even these efforts are unlikely to be enough considering the latest predictions about our planet’s welfare.

In recent years, environmentally focused legislation has targeted individuals and business. We currently have no global agreement on targets or a preferred route forward for our sector. Many logistics and transportation professionals hoped that the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009 would provide the global foundation for targets, but this was not the case.

In some regions of the world, such as the European Union, policy has moved forward since Copenhagen. But in other areas, such as the United States and Australia, policy seems to have stalled, which means we cannot rely on governments to provide the answers.

Steps in the Right Direction

We should not, however, give up. Several global initiatives outside of government regulation are making progress: The International Environmental Governance Reform, a United Nations program undertaking a consultative process on the reform of international environmental governance; Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a leading CO2 standards agency and the most widely used international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage greenhouse gas emissions; and the Carbon Disclosure Project, an independent, not-for-profit CO2 measurement agency holding the world’s largest database of primary corporate climate change information.

These efforts, however, will not be enough to decarbonize the logistics and transportation sector. We must all examine our own impacts, then identify ways to collaborate with competitors, peers, and customers to drive change forward while using these emerging global standards as a baseline.

In a more complex and confused environment, the responsibility will fall to business to decide on an appropriate approach. This is where cross-industry collaboration becomes vital. To be successful, this collaboration must be coupled with education on the challenges, and a corporate commitment that delivers business benefit as well as appropriate investment.

The good news is that the transport and logistics sector is talking about sustainability and environmental impact, and many companies are making headway. For example, the Alliance for European Logistics brings together companies such as BASF, Air France/KLM, Kuehne + Nagel, DHL, Motorola, and eBay to help policy makers develop consistent regulation that ultimately impacts the supply chain industry.

This is just one example. We need to take collective and collaborative responsibility to ensure that supply chain decarbonization becomes reality. This means keeping an open mind and working with customers and competitors to leverage best practices and replicate learnings to the benefit of all.

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