Is Green Logistics A Possibility? Earth Day 2022

Pablo A Vargas
October 11, 2023

How Are We Affecting The Earth?

Are logistics companies killing the Earth? This question is more complicated than we like to think.

Fossil fuels account for the overwhelming majority of our greenhouse gas emissions, and in that aspect, Logistics companies are putting a dent in climate change by contributing to filling the demand for ground transportation. Road transportation is the most environmentally harmful form of logistics, partly because it is so widespread. Airplanes are the next worst, producing a range of pollutants including water vapor, carbon, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, hydrocarbon, black carbon, and even lead. Large ships also produce large amounts of sulfur and nitrogen oxide through the use of unrefined heavy fuel oil, which can cause smog and acid rain as well as global warming. Rail transport is the least environmentally harmful logistics solution, but still makes a significant negative impact on its immediate surroundings.

So, is it possible to work in Logistics with a green outlook on the world? Of course, it is. First, one should understand that the demand for ground transport is not going anywhere, anytime soon. Therefore, until there's a greener alternative for ground transport, there still is a reliance on fossil fuels to keep the world running. Once we accept this, we can start taking accountability for the negative impact that our industry causes, and start to make changes toward a greener Logistics industry. Whether you're a small or big company, there are changes you can make to lessen your impact, while keeping food on the table.

The start of change

As governments around the world sign up to global energy policies aiming to reduce the use of fossil fuels, conserve resources, and improve efficiency through less waste and greater recycling, the logistics industry has necessarily responded. In the area of road transportation, major logistics firm DHL has committed to achieving zero emissions by 2050 and has also set out a series of 2025 targets. These include increasing carbon efficiency by 50% compared to 2007 and using clean delivery solutions such as bicycles and electric vehicles for first and last-mile delivery. The firm is also supporting wider environmental activities such as tree planting and is encouraging green solutions among its supply chain partners. A smaller example of greener logistics can start at the office by reducing waste, whether it's paper, supplies, or energy. In addition, personal choices at home like transportation, cleaning supplies, packaging, and eating habits can make an additional impact.

The pace of change

It is a feature of the shipping industry that change is necessarily slow. Large cargo ships take a long time to build and are a significant financial investment. Those commissioned ten years ago cannot realistically be scrapped to meet targets ten years in the future. Nevertheless, the sector is responding with alacrity, with tools including better voyage management, waste reduction, and optimized energy use combined with research into better design and alternative fuel sources.

Last year, the Rotterdam Port Authority developed an incentive scheme for clean inland shipping and sustainable logistics, offering financial support to new projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.

The shipping industry is under pressure from new regulations to drastically reduce sulfur emissions, and research into new non-fossil fuels is underway. New propulsion systems and optimized designs are also being developed, and the aviation industry is conducting similar intensive research. Change cannot happen overnight, but while some providers will sadly go out of business, industry leaders will meet and even surpass new energy policies through innovation and vision.

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