Annual Review & Outlook 2013: Environmental Defense Fund

In 2013, it’s absolutely crucial that companies put in place the long-term action plans needed to get real results in supply chain sustainability. Companies’ efforts to make their supply chains “greener” over the last few years have been well-intentioned but, on the whole, woefully inadequate. We continue hurtling toward a point of no return for our warming planet, with historically high levels of extreme weather events already a fact of life, and the scientific community reporting a 99 percent level of certainty that the warming of our planet is caused by human activities.

The freight industry’s part in all this is significant and, more importantly, set to increase. Freight already accounts for nearly 10 percent of total U.S. global warming emissions — among the largest corporate contributors. Worse, although emissions from personal transportation are improving slowly, those from freight continue to grow. 

The good news is there’s plenty of opportunity for improvement, and smart sustainability initiatives tend to benefit the bottom line. Decisions you make now on how you move your company’s products will have a big impact on sustainability immediately and, even better, show up quickly as savings.

But these actions must be more than one-off projects. Corporate-wide efforts to “green” freight operations must be part of a long-term strategy, driven by closely monitored metrics and well-defined targets. In short, it’s time for your sustainability program to grow up. A mature program includes a multiyear emissions-reduction goal. Efforts to meet that goal should focus on the most impactful steps, such as mode choice, distribution center location, load consolidation and distribution network redesign — even if they’re not as sexy as solar panels on the DC roof or electric delivery vehicles. Logistics managers are in a unique position to become commercial and environmental heroes, driving demonstrable improvements in the company’s overall carbon footprint, while delivering savings straight to the bottom line.

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