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Green supply chain management has become a critical topic of discussion in recent years, as more businesses strive to incorporate environmentally responsible practices into their supply chain operations. For instance, according to the recent European Logistics Supply Chain Sustainability Report, four in five companies have said that reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the next five years is a key focus area. This approach not only showcases a company’s green credentials, but it can also help to reduce costs in the long run.
As a new study revealed that Earth is on track to exceed 1.5C warming in the next decade, green supply chains are becoming increasingly important as customers, investors, and governments become more conscious of the impact of business practices on the environment. Companies that invest in green initiatives will not only demonstrate their commitment to a brighter future for generations to come, but they will also benefit from improved efficiency and enhanced reputation.
At goplasticpallets.com, we’re extremely “sustainability aware”, so much so that it is engrained across the entire business – from the materials we use, to product application, to how they’re recycled at the end of their lifecycle. In fact, 93% of our plastic pallets are made from 100% recycled materials.
We have asked our team of experts to share their top green supply chain management practices. Here’s what they had to say…
1. Take the time to evaluate your existing supply chain:
The first step in creating a greener supply chain is to understand the current state of play across your business. Take the time to analyse your current supply chain operations and identify areas where you can make changes to reduce your impact on the environment. You can also break these changes down into “quick wins” and “longer-term changes”.
This step is crucial for a number of reasons. Firstly, you’ll able to determine just how sustainable you currently are, which will help you to map out achievable goals for the future. Secondly, this will help you to identify areas where you are already having a positive impact on the environment – whether that is the products you use, any recycling policies you operate, or whether your incentivising staff to form a car pool! By highlighting your current successes, you can create a sense of direction for any sustainability programmes moving forwards.
To assess your current practices, you should examine all aspects of your supply chain, including product sourcing, transportation, packaging, waste management, and energy usage. For each of these areas, you should gather data and carry out sustainability audits, including Life Cycle Analysis (more on that later), to determine your impact on the environment.
2. Choosing sustainable suppliers to optimise your supply chain
One of the key things to consider when assessing your current practices is your supply chain partners. Your suppliers, distributors and customers all play a significant role in your overall sustainability journey, so it’s important to involve them in your decision making processes. This will help you understand the impact of your entire supply chain and give you a more accurate picture of your overall sustainability.
Prioritise working with suppliers who share your company’s green values and have a track record of sustainable practices. This not only helps you reduce your own environmental impact, but also helps to promote sustainability within the wider supply chain. Additionally, by collaborating more closely with your supply chain partners, there is a better chance to work on environmental initiatives.
3. Implement Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
In addition to suppliers, you’ll also need to consider the impact of the products you use across the supply chain – from packaging and pallets to any automated systems and fork-lift vehicles in the warehouse.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a method used by manufacturers to evaluate the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle – from raw material extraction to disposal at the end of its life. More companies are now using this method to provide real data on the environmental impact of the product within the actual operating supply chain of a business. LCA can be used to identify areas for improvement and to make informed decisions about materials selection and design. It is becoming increasingly popular as manufacturers look to improve the sustainability of their products and supply chains.
4. Review modes of transport
As you’d expect, transportation is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. If you operate a transport network, consider reducing the number of trucks on the road, invest in more fuel-efficient vehicles, or explore how you can reduce the distance products need to travel.
Many third party logistic providers continue to invest in greener vehicles. Evri, formerly Hermes, has a fleet that includes trucks powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), whilst DPD UK utilises almost 3,000 electric vehicles across the country.
At goplasticpallets.com, we are also helping our customers to reduce the number of trips they are required to make by providing them with innovative, space saving packaging. For example, we recently launched the CabCube 1612 to the UK market. This SleevePack product can be stacked four high in a standard 40 ft curtain side trailer, allowing the vehicle to carry a total of 64 units. However, once emptied, it folds flat to a height of just 251mm, enabling 192 units to be loaded on the return leg. This provides a 69% volume reduction and a return ratio of 1:3.25, which enables our customers to substantially reduce the use of vehicles and make significant savings.
5. Opt for Returnable Transit Packaging (RTP)
The CabCube 1612 is a form of Returnable Transit Packaging (RTP), which is designed to be used multiple times and therefore provides a number of benefits over single-use packaging – including cost savings, improved efficiency, and reducing your environmental impact.
RTP is particularly popular across a number of industries, including manufacturing, retail and logistics. Over recent years, we have seen a growth in the number of customers asking us: “how can we use RTP in the most effective and sustainable way?” As a result, we continue to focus on offering recycled plastic pallets for repeat use – ticking those boxes – plus returnable systems, such as sleeve packs, which contain and protect products in transit.
There’s also a desire to use more recycled materials in production, to develop new blends from existing materials, and to redesign products to make them lighter whilst retaining their strength. Our products increase operational efficiency and are designed to last at least 10 years!
6. Implement recycling programmes
A comprehensive recycling programme is another way to make your supply chain greener. Encourage your employees, customers and suppliers to recycle by providing recycling bins and promoting recycling initiatives. By doing this, you can reduce waste, conserve resources, and make your supply chain more environmentally friendly.
In 2019, we took this a step further by launching our own very own recycling scheme that underpins our own commitment to sustainability.
We are helping to create more sustainable supply chains by providing long lasting, reusable plastic pallets and boxes, and ensuring they are responsibly recycled at the end of their lifecycle. Since making this pledge, we have recycled more than 1000 tonnes of plastic, and we are incredibly proud of this feat.
7. Invest in renewable energy sources
Using renewable energy sources is another way to make your supply chain greener. If budgets allow, consider installing solar panels, wind turbines, or other renewable energy sources to power your facilities and reduce your carbon footprint. By using renewable energy, you can reduce your dependence on non-renewable sources and make your supply chain cleaner.
Many leading players are making strides in this area. For example, DHL Supply Chain has recently developed a carbon neutral real estate portfolio of 400,000 sqm to support customers’ growth requirements across Europe.
Creating a green supply chain is not just a one-time task, it requires continuous planning and investment. Take the time to analyse your current activity and carefully map out where you can make the necessary improvements. Whilst installing renewable energy sources might be a long-term goal, you can also implement short term measures to make your supply chain greener. Collaborate with your suppliers and partners to seek out joint initiatives and offer support. Meanwhile, explore how you can benefit from Returnable Transit Packaging.
Whether you’re just starting out on your sustainability journey or looking for ways to take your supply chain to the next level, we hope these useful tips can help you make a difference.