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Green and Sustainable Logistics

It could be said that the term ‘Green Logistics’ has been a term that has been somewhat exploited by many logistics and supply chain organisations in recent years. This is especially true of those organisations merely seeking to use the term to advertise the fact that they are environmentally friendly, and those seeking to differentiate their products and services from their competitors’.

However, simply writing an organisational logo in green on a lorry, railway wagon, aeroplane fuselage or ship does nothing to prove that any commitment has been made other than the cost of the paint! In truth, most people accept that the term has been used to market services and products without there ever being any strategy to reduce the impact of the operation on the environment, to make operations sustainable or to seek out alternative ways of doing things or alternative sources and uses of energy and materials.

If we accept that as a fact, then we must now accept that things had - and have - to change. Strategies, investment and a real commitment to green logistics and supply chain operations must become firmly embedded into all logistics and supply chain operations if they are to survive and prosper in a changing world and markets. The need for this commitment has certainly been recognized by governments and also by many larger global and multi-national logistics organisations.

Undoubtedly, a key driver of the recognition that things needed to change in order to ensure that modern logistics and supply chain operations and organisations could become sustainable, was the agreement - and subsequent protocol - agreed in Kyoto in 1997, where representatives of some 160 governments agreed that global warming was a reality and had to be addressed. To date over 190 states have ratified the protocol which aims to reduce four particular greenhouse gases and two groups of gases. The greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride, whilst the two groups of gases produced by these four are hydro fluorocarbons and per fluorocarbons. Together these gases and gas types are known as The Big 6.

Other concerns, particularly within the logistics and supply chain industry include issues relating to CO² emissions from road freight vehicles and - to a lesser degree - other modes of transport. However, it is perhaps a general awareness that the principles of effective supply chain operation where resources are used at optimum levels and waste is reduced to a minimum align perfectly with a drive to greener operations which also recognise the need to use resources at optimum levels, reduce energy usage and waste if we are to ensure that future generations will not be disadvantaged by our actions today.

However, there are still organisations of all sizes that need to be convinced that the required commitment and investment can - and will - bring improved efficiencies and the required returns. Again, this is particularly true when we consider small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It is these types of organisations that need to be convinced to commit to and to invest in new techniques and technologies because they generally lack the financial strength of larger organisations. It is also true that many smaller organisations take a more traditional view of business, having often been in the same ownership, perhaps family run, for many years and who are prone to take a short term view based on the premise of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’.

It is a fact that short term thinking is not compatible with developing greener and more sustainable logistics operations. It takes long term planning and commitment and, as such, needs to be treated in the same way as any other business strategy.

2010 - Green Countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol (Dark Green have ratified Annex 1 and Annex 2)

Grey Countries are considering ratifying

Brown countries do not intend to sign

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