Over the past few years, sustainability has gained relevance in the logistics industry. From major policy initiatives to consumer-driven movements, companies are facing pressure from all sides to adopt eco-friendly practices.
With the current trends in the industry, these measures are much needed. Between the increase in shipping emissions and environmental efforts across other sectors, experts estimate that shipping could represent some 10% of global GHG emissions by 2050, up from 3.1% in the period 2007-2012.
As a freight forwarder, figuring out how to operate sustainably on top of your day-to-day responsibilities can feel overwhelming at first. However, investing in the environment pays off in many ways, from getting ahead on policy compliance to attracting new business.
How to build a sustainable freight forwarding operation
Developing sustainable practices can be hard for any business– especially when your job involves moving several tons of cargo from point A to point B. However, there are a few actions you can take to start reducing your environmental impact.
Lean into efficiency
There are plenty of good reasons to prioritize efficiency at your organization, from saving time to reducing costs. However, finding ways to maximize value can also decrease your environmental impact. For instance, on a global scale, we’ve seen how port congestion and increased dwell time can increase pollution. Similarly, finding more fuel-efficient modes of transport and optimizing for the shortest routes can reduce both cost and carbon emissions.
When seeking out efficient practices, try to stay open to improvements that might go against your initial inclination. For example, many companies are considering the possibility of cutting velocity for non-fuel efficient vessels, as experts find that reducing ship speed by 10% will lead to a 27% reduction of the ship’s emissions.
While this may at first spark concern over business impact, data indicates that it might not be as bad as you’d think. According to a report by Sifted, 82% are willing to wait at least one extra day for eco-friendly shipping– even among shoppers who rate shipping speed as “very important.”
Look into environmentally-friendly providers
As a freight forwarder, your influence over your customers’ environmental impact can feel limited, especially since you’re not in control of the entire process. However, you can still make a difference by choosing to work with providers committed to sustainability.
Some forwarders partner with carriers who offer carbon offsets to fund projects, such as building windmills or wells in communities in need. In addition to making a positive impact on the world, this can also provide tangible examples for current and prospective customers to demonstrate their impact. Not to mention that many end consumers will be more than willing to help fund the effort, as 57% of shoppers state that they’re willing to pay 10% or more for eco-friendly shipping and packaging.
However, if you can’t find a reliable partner off the bat, you can start by incorporating sustainability questions into your carrier vetting process. For instance, ask what type of vessels they’re using, how they optimize their routes, and what efforts they’re making to reduce waste and operate efficiently.
Double down on reporting
Just like any company-wide initiative, improving your environmental impact requires a commitment to data and analytics. Not only can reporting show you the true impact of your efforts, but it can also provide you with the insights you need to inform your decisions.
If you’re not already, invest in a digital solution to track metrics like fuel consumption and distance traveled for each shipment. From there, you can analyze your data to form business insights on how to cut those measurements down.
Measuring your results can also provide you with insights and materials to better present your impact to prospective customers. With 84% of consumers more likely to purchase from sustainable brands, many shippers are looking for new ways to show their commitment to going green. By quantitatively demonstrating your impact, you can help improve customer satisfaction and fuel new business for your shippers.
Sustainability is the next big wave in logistics. By making efforts to reduce your carbon footprint, you can help the earth, improve sales, and increase efficiency at your organization. While it can be easy to push eco-friendly measures to the side until sustainability becomes a requisite across the industry, launching your efforts early on can put you in a position to get ahead of competitors.