Green logistics, or how a “psychopath” becomes an exemplary citizen

Green logistics is a hot and trendy slogan. The websites of transport companies are, as a rule, showing successful programs of social responsibility which could be understood in a broad sense – for the local community and for the whole planet. Why, suddenly, did the heads of logistics companies begin to be interested in global warming, environmental pollution, increasing noise levels and many other phenomena that they had neglected for decades?

The car, especially a large delivery vehicle, is an example of ecological nonsense – poor efficiency of the engine and pollution emission disproportionate to the value of its work. One of the most effective ways for eco-transport would be to implement the Polish idea “Trucks on a train”. However, it is very naive to believe that such a change will be possible in the coming years. Transport corporations can not be forced to switch from trucks to freight trains while oil remains relatively cheap. However, it turns out, that they want to become eco-friendly.

CSR is trendy

Corporate Social Responsibility, a socially responsible business, is now becoming a reality. More and more environmental polluters are announcing that their business strategy takes into consideration and respects social interest. They say they care about the protection of natural resources and want to consult various stakeholders while doing their business. This is not only a commonly understood “ecology”, but a project designed to have a broad social response and not afraid of moral and philosophical issues.

CSR has become so trendy that it is simply difficult to imagine a large company with a recognised brand which wouldn’t decide to undertake some socially responsible actions. However, this sudden awakening and rapid 180 degree about-turn in ecological attitude can arouse suspicion of pretence or manipulation.

Where is the catch?

A comparison of corporations to a psychopath has become common as a result of documentary films by Michael Moore. It was thanks to Moore that millions of people around the world understood that Hannibal Lecter and the corporation were not very different. The psychopath aims to maximise pleasure, the corporation to maximise profits – in both cases, they get their way whatever it takes. While a serial killer can be captured and sentenced, the corporation usually remains completely unpunished.

So what was the reason for this change? Why is being “green” so trendy? Have corporations ceased to make their businesses solely for the sake of their shareholders’ profits? Never ever. But it has never been their goal to pollute the environment or overexploit their manpower. Even though, if the corporation has to get rid of sewage, it perceives building a sewage treatment plant or pouring toxic substances into the river as the same means to an end. The choice between these two options depends on a cost calculation. Yet, nowadays striving to neutralise the harmful impact on the environment and implementing pro-social activities often means you may earn more (directly or by building a competitive advantage).

Hybrid TIR at a green warehouse

There are many ways you can profit from ecological activities. A perfect example is a warehouse in which traditional lighting is exchanged for LED lamps with motion sensors. Power consumption drops sharply because LEDs consume several times less energy than halogen or fluorescent lamps, and at the same time they give better quality light (more natural, without flickering). And automation prevents lighting spaces that do not require it – the lamps only light up in those parts of the warehouse where the work is underway. Thanks to the savings from automation you may get some money for new employees.

If you implement also automatic sorting lines and packaging planning algorithms, you may realise further savings – the time of work completion is reduced, productivity as well as your competitive advantage are increased. If you take care of designing a warehouse properly, you may ensure that most of its electricity comes from photovoltaic cells placed on the roof and facades, and the necessary heating and cooling can be derived from renewable sources (e.g. heat pumps).

The second extremely important source of savings is transport itself. Trucks produce a lot of noise and toxins, and also pose safety hazards on the roads. However, soon the TIR lorry, like the steam locomotive, could become history.

The major truck manufacturers are bringing more and more hybrid models to the market. New vehicles with diesel-electric drive will be carrying the majority of road cargo in the next decade. Interestingly, hybrids do not need to burn oil – they are equally happy with HVO, a fuel produced based on vegetable oil.

There are also more and more promising attempts using autonomous trucks travelling on the roads without the participation of the driver or only under supervision. This is an opportunity to significantly improve road safety in the near future.

Regardless of the type of fleet you have, eco-driving (economical driving) brings excellent results. And you only need to learn how to drive a car more efficiently to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 5 to 20 percent.

Green logistics is already becoming profitable both economically and socially. No wonder corporations are so eager to take on the role of the avant-garde of the green revolution.