While some companies may have addressed the "low-hanging fruit" when it comes to running their transportation and logistics operations more sustainably, Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund and author of its recent Smart Moves report, suggested five rules to guide freight carbon efficiency.
- Choose the most carbon-efficient mode possible. For example, Michael Kors was able to use a guaranteed ocean freight service for time-sensitive fashion shipments that cut emissions by 90 percent per shipment and reduced its freight costs by up to $20 per bag.
- Collaborate with other shippers. Hershey's and Ferrero, competing candymakers, began collaborating in fall 2011 on warehouse, distribution and transportation needs in a bid to cut both emissions and logistics costs. It also helps that this is one of the most promising potential ways to cut logistics costs, in some cases by up to 30 percent, Mathers said. Actual data from the Hershey's and Ferrero relationship won't be available until late 2012.
- Redesign your own network for efficiency. Hasbro's example of more closely balancing items stocked at regional distribution centers with stocking needs of retailers in those regions is one example of this tactic.
- Get the most out of each move. Yogurt maker Stonyfield Farms began adjusting its policies for minimum truckloads in 2006. Among other things, the company has specified that carriers use 53-foot trailers that can accommodate up to 26 pallets in a unique "pinwheel" loading pattern. The company's efforts have helped save at least $7.5 million while cutting net emissions by approximately 46 percent, Mathers said.
- Increase energy efficiency in distribution centers. EDF cites the example of a distribution center that was able to realize substantial electricity consumption reductions by optimizing the sleep settings on its conveyor belt controls.
Many of these ideas will require members of the transportation and logistics supply chain to share ideas and collaborate in ways they have not previously considered, Mathers said. "It takes trust, data and insight," he said.