Guide to Reducing Carbon Footprint in Logistics


Guide to Reducing Carbon Footprint in Logistics

Guest Author: Betty White

Environmental concerns are likely on everyone’s mind. Addressing global warming and reducing one’s carbon footprint are now primary concerns for many industries. The logistics industry, in particular, has a unique position in this context.

A brief word on the environment

Before delving deeper into the subject at hand, it is vital that we briefly touch on the current and estimated effects of emissions on the environment. It’s no secret that technological advancements often come at a cost. On the front of expanding industries and supply chains, fossil fuels’ predominant role correlates to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Industrialization has caused the global average temperature to rise by almost 2°F since 1880, according to NASA. 

Likewise, NOAA scientists have observed similar findings in the earth’s atmosphere. They recently detected the highest concentration since their records began in 1958. Scientists and researchers estimate that the average global temperature will increase by another 2.7°F before 2100, with worst-case scenarios suggesting an increase of almost 8°F.

Reducing one’s carbon footprint may not just a noble goal, but an essential one. That does not mean one should not continue to improve logistics, but only that one should entertain greener ideas on how to do so. 

Reducing the carbon footprint of the logistics sector

As logistics are an integral part of supply chains, they affect the global distribution of goods. E-commerce is increasing and customers have higher standards in terms of delivery speed. Yet, it is becoming clear that quick expansion is not sustainable, and each product’s carbon footprint needs to be reduced. Global regulations, such as those issued by the International Maritime Association (IMO), aim to do so.

Reducing carbon footprint in logistics is not without benefits. Many companies report savings after adopting greener courses of action. A commitment to sustainability also raises goodwill with your investors and stakeholders.

#1 Selecting greener suppliers

Selecting greener suppliers should be the first step towards reducing carbon footprint in logistics. The choice of raw materials on suppliers’ end often hinges on material viability towards the end product. It also affects the environment. Extracting and processing raw materials can have massively different carbon footprints. It depends on the materials and processes in question. Their energy consumption, waste, and emissions will vary, and it’s in your best interest to keep track of environmental metrics alongside performance.

#2 Centralizing supply networks

Global supply chains involve big supply networks, which need air or ocean transportation. Such means of transport can largely contribute to GHG emissions. Consolidating your supply networks across shorter distances can be one way to reduce your chain’s carbon footprint.

#3 Choosing greener means of transportation

It is vital to note that some means of transportation are less environmentally friendly than others. For example, ocean transportation is a notable contributor to global sulfur emissions. Or road transportation, which produces more emissions than rail transportation. Switching to greener means of transport across your supply chain can help reduce your carbon footprint.

#4 Optimizing energy consumption and waste production

It is a must to speak to energy consumption and waste production. One consumes energy and produces waste across all stages of a supply chain. From the refinement of raw materials to your warehouse management, you can strive to reduce both. Consider the following examples:

  • Individual employee energy consumption
  • Truck and forklift usage
  • Handling and packaging
  • Paperwork

To address the above, you might take individual measures. You may train employees to consume energy more efficiently, such as minimizing forklift use when possible. You can reduce double handling, reduce packaging, or recycle more. Finally, you can try to minimize paperwork and produce less waste.

#5 Recycle, reuse, repair

The measures we can take as individuals to reduce carbon footprint also apply across industries and supply chains. Especially given the recent effects of COVID-19, it may be time to consider greener practices as we recover and restructure operations.

Consider the following industry-specific examples:

The moving industry produces some GHG emissions by definition. In these challenging times, moving businesses are all too eager to see you get all the help you need with relocation. They also turn to greener practices as they restructure; from warehouse management practices to recycling packages.

Similarly, the cell phone industry sees many phones damaged within the first few weeks of purchase. As such, some businesses now provide incentives to recycle old devices, reduce the cost of repairs, or expand warranties. Some such changes may be harder to incorporate into one’s logistics operations, but they yield the benefits mentioned above. Depending on your industry’s unique needs, you may strive to strengthen your reverse logistics and repair operations and intensify your recycling efforts.


In light of the statistics mentioned above, it seems highly unlikely that we can afford to continue down a “business-as-usual” path. International laws and regulations continue to strive for greener alternatives as well, making the change to a more environmentally conscious business landscape a potential legal imperative, not merely an ethical one. However, this article hopefully demonstrated that future-proofing in this regard is both a viable and a potentially lucrative endeavor, in logistics or otherwise. 

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