Instituting Green Logistics Initiatives in Your Supply Chain

The environmental space is not interested in whether your company makes money or not. Their main concern is how you are impacting our air, water and natural resources. Hazardous and solid waste disposal and packaging have been identified as the leading issues in green logistics. The industry is pushing for measures that will tighten up regulations in order to ensure that the carbon footprint left on this planet is minimal.

“Greening” is the term used for a wide range of environmental concerns, and is usually thought of in a positive way. It is thought of as something beneficial to the planet and to the people who inhabit it. In terms of “greening”  logistics, the industry has made great strides in the last decade to begin tightening the gap between what can impact the planet and what can still make a business profitable. The answer is reverse logistics.

Traditional logistics of a business has always concentrated on the forward movement of items in the supply chain – like transporting, warehousing, packaging and inventory management – from the product producer to the consumer. Environmental concerns during the last 20 years have opened up a whole new niche industry – reverse logistics, involving the transportation of waste and the repurposing of used materials. With the technology industry taking on such upward momentum, reverse distribution and “green logistics” have been able to take advantage of a growing market.

There are three scenarios that take place that could impact the logistics processes of a company:

1. Greening can be mandated by government policies and legislation (the top-down approach)

The growing trend is for the industry (manufacturers and distributors) to take responsibility and control of the delivery, and the take-backs. They are hoping to be in the front seat when legislation and regulations are put into effect to mandate them to comply. It is not a matter of IF there will be regulations, but WHEN they will come, and no industry wants to be told how to handle their business. Many states have already passed, or have on the track to pass, legislation that will make major impacts – including fining the manufacturers for any of their products not disposed of properly, even if it is out of their control after the product leaves the sales floor.

2. Improvements can be initiated by the industry (the bottoms-up approach)

Government intervention presents an outcome that is not often predictable. The bottoms-up approach occurs when the business interests of the industry meets or exceeds the needs of the consumers – and the consumers want environmental initiatives. These changes would include the logistics industry finding more CO2-friendly ways to transport merchandise on both ends of the supply chain.

3. A compromise can be reached between the government and industry (involves certification)

The greatest impact on the environment happens when everyone works together. Attitudes would need to change within the logistics industry, as well as externally. We are beginning to see changes with the rise in the reverse logistics market. The idea of the three R’s (reduce consumption, reuse and recycle) is becoming increasingly popular. Companies are also seeing a positive advantage, as well as a competitive edge, by advertising their environmentally conscious green strategies.

In the end, pressure from within the industry itself can lead to greater environmental awareness and public education of proper handling of solid and hazardous waste. Companies that choose to lead the movement will see positive results in their bottom lines.

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