Guest Commentary: Taking Stock of Your Sustainability Program: Why It’s Important Today … and Tomorrow

Running a sustainable operation is essential to protecting the environment, adhering to laws and regulations and remaining competitive in today’s global market. But how do you know if the results of your green programs and initiatives are measuring up? Just as important, who measures your environmental impact, and against which standards? Unfortunately, there’s no single solution, since standards vary widely depending on where you do business and in which industry.

In the absence of a single universal standard, transportation and logistics companies can still gain a firm grasp of their green strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to position themselves for success today and well into the future. They can start by taking stock of their total carbon emissions output, researching and understanding measurement systems in the greater market and staying on top of environmental legislation and regulatory requirements.

Through these efforts, companies can overcome the lack of industrywide sustainability measurement standards and create opportunities that are multi-fold: to display an organizational commitment to carbon footprint management, satisfy a market need for sustainable transportation and warehouse products and services, develop a deep internal knowledge base of measurement protocols, and build a mutually beneficial relationship structure and efficiencies that customers value.

With potential new greenhouse gas (GHG) legislation on the horizon — one that will likely include all emissions sources — it’s more important than ever to understand your carbon emissions inventory. Failing to do so could cost you customer relationships and credibility, and inevitably hurt your bottom line.

Create a Plan. Call in the Experts. Gain Customer Confidence.

The most obvious sources of GHG emissions — like carbon dioxide — in our industry are trucks and other vehicles. But, when accounting for your company’s total carbon footprint, you’ve got to consider every aspect of your daily operations and their tentacles into the environment. For example, has your organization purchased electricity for its own use? What about emissions from contractor-owned vehicles? Do your employees travel a lot for business? How do you handle waste disposal? To truly impact your carbon footprint means more than taking trucks off the road, it means evaluating electricity levels and natural gas use and understanding your operations.

There are also business intensity measures to consider relative to your carbon emissions. Consider the total number of shipments of freight over a given period of time and then break down the CO2 for each one. How can you reduce emissions at that level? The same process holds true for electricity — what are the kilowatts per hour over your total hours of operation? Can you change your carbon footprint by turning lights off or installing energy-efficient lighting on motion sensors?

Lean tools are especially valuable in helping to drive out waste through the identification of carbon streams, which, in turn, provides a more holistic view of where to focus sustainability efforts. All of this analysis informs the true state of your organization’s impact on the environment.

Establishing a deep understanding of decentralized sustainability measurement systems for different segments of sustainability is also an important step. These can include, among others, the GHG Protocol, the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting (NGER) Act, the Climate Registry Information System (CRIS), EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership and any custom systems. Creating a plan will help to integrate your carbon emissions inventory with the various registries together into one manageable and measurable program. And with an internal team responsible for socializing and serving as champions for the program for the rest of the organization, you’ll be best poised for success.

This team will help to develop a quantifiable business plan, establish a roadmap and milestones and formalize carbon mitigation activities. As important, they’ll help to keep the focus on the organization’s core competency by calling in experts who develop sustainable measurement technologies and systems.

Tapping outside resources is an efficient way to supplement internal capabilities and leverage the latest technologies. Not doing so could mean a delay in collecting data and getting an effective system of measurement up and running. It also helps to reduce administrative costs and increase your organization’s carbon management credibility.

As the industry and customers’ demands for carbon management and reporting become a requirement, there’s never been a better time to become informed, take action and position your company for success. The risks of waiting for an industry standard and not starting out on your own path are just too high. Not only will it leave you unprepared for existing and future regulation and upcoming legislation, but it will also impede your ability to service customers and maintain your competitive advantage.

Anthony Oliverio is Senior Director of Operations Strategy at Menlo Worldwide Logistics, where he is responsible for companywide initiatives that improve operational performance and industry competitiveness. In this capacity he has initiated, designed and led implementation for corporate initiatives such as Menlo’s Global Lean Strategy, Sustainability Program, Business Intelligence Project and standardized work programs for business processes, warehousing and transportation groups. Since joining Menlo in 1999 as senior logistics manager for the high-tech group, Oliverio has held several leadership positions requiring progressively increasing responsibility in operations management for the retail, high-tech and manufacturing sectors. Prior to joining Menlo Worldwide Logistics, Oliverio served as warehouse operations manager and director of regional distribution operations for FedEx Supply Chain Services, formerly Caliber Logistics, and in various logistics and distribution roles with Nordstrom, Inc.  

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