Going Green: Best Practices to Improve Sustainability in Logistics

Pamela Nebiu Pamela Nebiu March 30, 2023
Going Green: Best Practices to Improve Sustainability in Logistics
Some may say it’s not easy going green, but that is no longer a valid excuse for companies in the transportation industry. For all the good that delivering shipments around the world does, it comes with a cost: Freight transportation accounts for 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, and the logistics industry is on track to become the largest carbon-emitting sector by 2050. The rapid rise of e-commerce means even more deliveries, as customers want their freight promptly. Consumers also want to deal with companies fighting climate change and producing environmentally conscious products — but they also don’t want to hear excuses if delivery times are missed. Recent regulatory pressures are also being placed on transportation companies to reduce their carbon emissions, and failure to comply means penalties and fines.
Logistics companies have to find a balance. They must find ways to lower their carbon footprint and strive for sustainability while at the same time building their brand and reducing operating costs. This blog will examine how incorporating four eco-friendly strategies into supply chains can both help save the planet and help logistics professionals work toward long-term sustainability that will help them thrive in a rapidly-changing transportation landscape.
What is Sustainability in Logistics?
Logistics sustainability is the practice of reducing the environmental impact of transportation and accepting social responsibility while still maintaining the bottom line. It means meeting current needs without compromising the ability of future needs to meet theirs. Striving for sustainability for logistics companies includes eliminating pollutants, such as minimizing carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and reducing waste through alternative fuels and energy-efficient vehicles that protect the planet.
Many companies are striving to combat climate change, but for those that aren’t, regulators are making it increasingly clear that supply chains must clean up their act. An example is the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law in August 2022. This act aimed to slow down the runaway inflation and boost the United States economy overall. It also involved convincing and incentivizing logistics companies to forge a more sustainable future. Here are ways the Inflation Reduction Act will impact logistics professionals:
  • Logistics supply chains in the United States will grow due to new jobs because of additional clean energy demand in solar power, electric vehicles, and wind turbines
  • Incentives to purchase and use electric vehicles instead of a fleet of gas-guzzlers
  • Incentives to turn to renewable energy sources
  • Incentives to promote green energy use and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Providing tax benefits and grants to companies that are combating climate change
  • Offering grants and rebates to purchase carbon-offsetting equipment at ports
The transportation industry leaves a large carbon footprint due to the sheer volume of products moved worldwide. It may be challenging for companies to adhere to any regulations for a greener future without hurting their return on investment. Governments and regulatory bodies are putting pressure on organizations to prioritize sustainability acts such as the Inflation Reduction Act, showing that logistics professionals must find a way to balance making a profit and making a difference. 
Four Ways to go Green in Your Supply Chain
There is no magic fix for logistics companies that desire to lower their carbon footprint. It takes collaboration from end-to-end along the supply chain, and everyone needs to be on board to reach sustainability in logistics. Companies may move toward their climate goals by choosing sustainable equipment, going paperless, using technology like CAPACITY to avoid deadhead miles, and analyzing data to reduce waste. Here is more on those four strategies:
Choose Sustainable Equipment
Selecting sustainable logistics equipment is often one of the most significant expenses for companies seeking to lower their carbon footprint. Access to capacity is vital, but access to more efficient freight vehicles and ensuring you use the proper-size vehicle for jobs is equally important.
Companies with access to the necessary capacity are more efficient, as it reduces trips and the number of times trucks cover large amounts of empty miles. Deadhead miles are a fuel waste and leave a larger carbon footprint than necessary. Optimizing route planning and choosing different lanes helps eliminate wasted trips and promotes sustainability in supply chain management. Access to different types of capacity also means that intermodal solutions may be selected, proving more planet-friendly than just using trucks for transportation.
Switching to EVs is often a slow process, and only some companies can immediately make the switch, especially if they possess an extensive fleet of vehicles. Regulations are pushing for more environmentally friendly vehicles, but they often come with incentives, such as tax credits, to make the switch. EVs will play an essential role in the logistics industry moving forward, as they emit lower levels of pollutants than fuel-powered vehicles. Choosing sustainable freight vehicles is a crucial way logistics companies reduce their carbon footprint by proving to customers that they are concerned about climate change.
Go Paperless
With the ease with which documents are now prepared, sent, and viewed, cutting out the use of paper is an area a company can instantly utilize to help lower its carbon footprint and transition to green buildings. It’s not hard for anyone that has ever worked in an office to think back to when they printed out something that didn’t have to be — or that colleague that stood by the printer for five minutes printing out 100 sheets of paper for some reason. In addition to that type of waste, companies that go paperless also save on the costs of mailing and storing invoices and other essential documents. Paperless invoicing may also reduce errors and help with faster payment processing. Going paperless makes a massive difference in companies reducing their environmental impact and trying to improve their bottom line.
Edge Logistics is one company moving towards a 100 percent paperless system, eliminating paper use in its offices to reduce waste, and providing paperless invoicing to customers through its Edge Capacity app. Countless waste may be saved by having employees ask themselves whether items must really be printed and if other carbon-neutral office items are available when purchasing supplies. Another way to make eco-friendly decisions around the office is by buying items made from recyclable or biodegradable materials. Americans use an average of 660 pounds of paper per year for printing or writing, and until that number drastically decreases, sustainability in logistics won’t be possible.
Use Tech to Ensure No Mile is Wasted
Technology can be your best friend when cutting down on empty miles, and partnering with a tech-enabled 3PL may ensure you have access to the best routing options. A 3PL with a broad carrier range helps you find other lanes to travel, eliminating deadhead miles that offer no value and that waste fuel while contributing even further to carbon emission output. Incorporating technology, and possibly artificial intelligence and machine learning can create routing algorithms that help logistics companies locate the most efficient transportation routes. Working with a broad range of carriers also enables organizations to find those that are environmentally friendly and may already be implementing electric or hybrid vehicles. 
Technology may also provide real-time data on delivery times, traffic, and weather conditions, helping avoid delays, adjust routes, and reduce fuel use. What could be worse than a truck traveling empty miles stuck in traffic for hours? A survey found that 35% of miles driven by trucks are empty miles, leading to higher carbon emissions and unnecessary fuel expenses. Technology helps avert those troubles in the push for sustainability. If deadhead miles are unavoidable, switching to greener vehicles at least reduces the carbon footprint of the empty trip compared to burning through gallons of diesel fuel.
Use Data to Drive Down Waste
Analyzing data plays a significant role in helping divulge wasteful areas of a company. By collecting and studying data, companies may make better-informed decisions about their sustainability in logistics initiatives. They can scrutinize past data to determine the most prominent areas for improvement. API integrations may also provide valuable data, helping stakeholders study trends and patterns that measure their progress in sustainable logistics. Through analysis, stakeholders may make data-driven decisions on route optimization, finding the best lanes to take to cut down on carbon emissions. Studying data can also lead to greener decisions regarding delivery patterns, weather conditions, and possible traffic delays. 
Analytics also aid in areas such as inventory management that avoids overstocking or understocking issues and package optimization that reduces waste and lowers shipping costs while helping further reduce deadhead miles. Implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) allows companies to study their environmental impact and take corrective action if they aren’t pleased with the results and need to take more steps to decrease their carbon footprint.
Join Edge Logistics in Working Toward a Greener, More Sustainable Future
Companies already taking steps for a sustainable future will benefit from their early action down the road. Many customers desire to do business with companies focused on helping the environment, and regulations have been passed — and expect more on the way — forcing companies to clean up their act and take social responsibility. There are methods to take steps towards sustainability, such as choosing sustainable equipment, going paperless, utilizing technology, and analyzing data to lessen the C02 emitted and drastically reduce waste. 
Edge Logistics is at the forefront of the sustainability effort and helping reduce the carbon footprint. The Edge Capacity platform and its partnership with Cloverly have furthered sustainability initiatives by helping measure CO2 in each load and helping offset carbon emissions. Contact Edge Logistics today to find out why this award-winning company Loves the Freight and ways to assist you in finding lower emissions, reduce waste, and how to take steps towards more sustainable practices.

About the Author

Pamela Nebiu

Pamela Nebiu

Pamela is the Senior Marketing Manager at Edge Logistics. She has a Bachelors of Arts from DePaul University in Public Relations and Advertising with a minor in Photography. Pamela is responsible for overseeing advertising, marketing, press, and social media related to Edge.