Defining green logistics
The majority of green logistics definitions focus entirely on the environmental dimension of logistics. For example, Rodrigue, Slack and Comtois defined green logistics as:
…the supply chain management practices and strategies that reduce the environmental and energy footprint of freight distribution and focus on material handling, waste management, packaging and transport.
(Rodrigue, Slack and Comtois 2009)
Such definitions focus on the minimisation of the damage to the environment caused by business operations such as procurement, inventory management, warehousing, order fulfilment, distribution, returns and waste collections. Rogers and Tibben-Lembke (1998) used this term to characterise attempts to measure and minimise the ecological footprint of logistics activities.
The role of key stakeholders in greening logistics operations
The capacity of a business to deal with the issue of environmental protection and resource conservation in regard to its logistics processes depends mainly on its stakeholders, as well as its energy and commodity costs.
The key stakeholders may include the government that is responsible for the imposition of international and national regulations, customers who demand eco-friendly products and logistics services, employees who want to work in a socially and environmentally responsible business, the society that demands more Corporate Socially Responsible businesses, the businesses that want to promote their green credentials, enhance their brand image, become differentiated, reduce costs and comply with government regulations, and finally the business investors who value the business’ performance based on economic, environmental and social criteria (eg Dow Jones Sustainability Index).
Approaches towards the greening of logistics operations
The origins of green logistics can be traced back to two functional areas that business activities interfaced with external agencies: green purchasing and reverse logistics (McKinnon et al. 2015).
Today the notion of green logistics extends to all the elements that form logistics operations across which a business can instigate a range of environmental protection and resource conservation measures.
Such interventions may refer to the business’ customers, market and products, its internal structure and planning, existing processes, controls and measurements, adopted technologies and resources, and finally company employees, suppliers and service providers. For example, businesses might start sourcing materials and suppliers in a more sustainable way, utilise packaging more efficiently, adopt more sophisticated technologies to facilitate route and load optimisation, and develop their reverse logistics.
The following steps of this week focus on the procurement stage and examine how businesses can source their materials and suppliers in a more environmentally friendly and ethical way.
What challenges do the Small Medium Enterprises (SME) in your country face in adopting green logistics practices? What can be done to overcome them?
Share your thoughts with your classmates in the comments section below.
McKinnon, A., Browne, M., Piecyk, M., Whiteing, A. (2015) ‘Green Logistics: Improving the Environmental Sustainability of Logistics’. 3rd edn. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). Kogan Page: London, 426
Rodrigue, J. P., Slack, B., and Comtois, C. (2001) ‘Green Logistics (The Paradoxes of)’. in ed. by Brewer, A. M., Button, K. J., Hensher, D. A. The Handbook of Logistics and Supply-Chain Management, Handbooks in Transport #2. London: Pergamon/Elsevier, 339-350
Roger, D. S., and Tibben-Lembke, R. S. (1998) Going Backwards: Reverse Logistics Trends and Practices. Pittsburgh: Reverse Logistics Executive Council (RLEC)
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