Logistics Q&A: Are There ‘Green' Transportation Providers?

A new series focusing on plant operations and logistics.

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Q. My company is very environmentally conscious and we like our service providers to be as well. What kind of sustainability initiatives should I look for in the transportation industry?  Is there such thing as a "green" third-party logistics provider?

A. Yes, I think you will find that many transportation providers are environmentally conscious and are making strides to reduce their carbon footprints. One way to look at your transportation provider's commitment to being "green" is through the company's involvement in EPA's SmartWay program. SmartWay identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related emissions and is a voluntary partnership between the government and carriers. Participants are given a score based on their current practices ranging from a 0.75 to 1.25. To learn more about SmartWay and to view the scores of carriers and logistics partners, you can visit www.epa.gov/smartway/transport/partner-list/index.htm#.

Of course, many companies also have their own sustainability initiatives that pertain specifically to their businesses. Many companies have increased their focus on choosing environmentally savvy suppliers – even those that provide services such as advertising and, you guessed it, transportation. Retailers worked with their vendors to reduce the amount of air or wasted space in trucks. With more product on trucks, fewer shipments will be made, therefore reducing the gallons of gas used and carbon emissions produced. A leading retailer works with suppliers to redesign their packaging and fit more cups in a case, more cases on a pallet and less empty space in a truck. This not only positively impacts the planet, but it provides significant savings for the company and the consumer, too.

Often carriers develop internal programs that reduce inefficiencies and reduce their carbon footprints. Practices such as reducing the maximum speed of company trucks by just a few miles per hour can quickly result in a significant reduction in fuel consumption, emissions and cost.

As a shipper, there are ways for you to promote sustainability – from your own internal practices to your choice of providers. At the end of the day, many environmental initiatives keep costs in check in addition to helping the planet, and we all benefit. 

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