Explaining Green Logistics
Logistics has always been about making sure that product flows are accurate and efficient. Main goals include making sure manufactures have what they need when they need it and preventing customer distribution problems.
The relatively recent field of green logistics explores how to meet the needs of companies while having a minimal ecological impact on the planet. Keep reading for a history of green logistics and some of today’s most pressing concerns.
A brief history
The concept of green logistics first appeared in the mid 1980s and focused on using technological advances in equipment and scheduling to reduce environmental damages. Early studies focused on the environmental impact of freight traffic on communities. The introduction of heavy lorries meant that more freight could be transported in a single trip, but also lead to a significant increase in lorry traffic and complaints caused by many large vehicles in urban environments.
Studies showed there were pros and cons to both approaches. Smaller lorries meant more trips, higher air pollution, and increased accident risk and noise pollution issues. Larger lorries led to road stress and damage, visual intrusion for other drivers, and increased accident severity when something went wrong.
By the 1990s, the most important issue for logistics managers in a Birmingham study was corporate waste and excess packing material. Jim Stock’s 1992 white paper on reverse logistics was highly influential in calling attention to industrial waste practices. This growing concern led to Europe passing packaging waste directives and an exploration of returnable packaging.
Since that time, green logistics has continued to expand as a discipline, and some objectives have shifted. Three of the most important main areas of focus are:
1. Freight transport
Many industries in recent decades have moved to just-in-time inventory delivery. This approach reduces parts obsolescence and keeps companies from tying up cash in excess inventory, but it can have an environmental impact on transport. Many companies have explored hybrid technologies and other methods of reducing fuel consumption. This has the added benefit of reducing costs while benefiting the environment.
Technology has been a great help in the greening of logistics. Sophisticated tracking and routing software can cut the number of kilometres travelled and minimise travel through areas with heavy traffic congestion. These increased efficiencies lead to reduced CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
2. Reverse logistics
Reverse logistics deals with the waste flow generated by production. Topics include:
a. Benefits of incineration vs. landfills
b. Ways to refurbish or recycle products and cannibalise obsolete and defective products for useful parts
c. Resale of remanufactured/refurbished components to customers to boost revenues and reduce waste
Giant warehouses and the accompanying lorry traffic have an impact on the environment and on surrounding communities. Unfortunately this centralisation of inventory has also increased CO2 emissions, negating some of the gains in other areas. A 2005 study showed that in a centralised system, the average haul length increased more than 600 km and CO2 annual emissions increased from 92 to 131 tonnes.
The future of green logistics
One ongoing issue companies must face is the debate of weak vs. strong sustainable development. When sustainable development issues are weak, a company’s environmental goals are weighed against their economic objectives and trade offs are made.
In contrast, a strong sustainable development policy dictates that a company’s environmental goals constrain everything else, including economic and production targets. This is an area of continuing debate influenced by stated environmental objectives, corporate image concerns, and in some cases government mandates.
Green logistics is a relatively new field but has made a lot of progress in a few short decades. If you are interested in past and present research in the field, the Logistics Research Centre based in Edinburgh, UK is a source of valuable information.
For more information about how Polythene UK champions a green and sustainable approach to polythene, get in touch today. Call 0845 643 1601 or contact us online.