The Importance of Sustainability in Logistics Today

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A brief overview by Alan McKinnon, Professor of Logistics at KLU

Lowering costs by increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste and pollution, creating safe working environments – supply chain sustainability is high on the agenda of many businesses. In line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals declared in 2015, sustainability is usually defined in economic, environmental and social terms.

Logistics negatively impacts the environment in many ways, mainly by releasing greenhouse gases (GHGs), impairing air quality and causing noise disturbance. Globally, the movement of freight is responsible for 7 - 8% of GHGs, a figure predicted to double by 2050 if companies do not achieve a deep decarbonisation of logistics operations.  In much of the developing world a more pressing concern is the high level of air pollution, much of which originates from truck exhausts and represents a major health hazard.

The wider societal impacts of supply chains have come into focus as companies develop and expand their corporate social responsibility policies. These policies are often underpinned by ethical issues relating to sourcing, production, packaging and distribution decisions, and the working conditions of employees across the supply chain.

Our research confirms that within the logistics sector, many environmental improvement measures also save money and yield a fairly rapid return on investment. Greening logistics is often just good business practice. While there is a close alignment between economic and environmental objectives, some environmental initiatives are more cost effective than others. The challenge lies in tailoring a package of measures that meets both economic and environmental goals.

Sustainability – Key Competence Area of KLU

KLU has established Sustainability for the benefit of transportation, global logistics and supply chain management as one of its Key Competence Areas (KCA) to generate new insights into this important subject for researchers and practitioners. Our interest and expertise in sustainability lies in all three of its dimensions: environmental, social, and economic.

KLU professors conduct research in several fields related to sustainability in logistics. We keep abreast of technological, regulatory and managerial developments in this fast-moving field and so are well placed to provide regular updates on trends, initiatives and publications to students, managers and public policy-makers. KLU works closely with organizations and institutions in the field of sustainability, including the Global Logistics Emissions Council, Smart Freight Centre, Clean Cargo Working Group, the World Bank and the EU.