Five things to look for to advance your sustainability initiative
Environmental sustainability has become a driving force for nearly every type of business today. The food & beverage sector is no exception. In fact, efforts to green the global food supply chain probably have more urgency than others, given widespread pressure to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.
If you’re in the food & beverage business and looking to implement or advance a sustainability initiative, your internal processes are a great place to start. However, keep one thing in mind: any meaningful effort to reduce environmental impact must go beyond internal efforts to include impacts up and down the value chain.
Reducing impacts from farm to fork means focusing on every link in the supply chain, examining impacts outside your company. It means evaluating the processes, practices and sustainability efforts of equipment manufacturers, 3PLs, transportation providers, logistics partners and anyone whose products or services touch your supply chain.
Five things to look for in a green provider
So how do you know if a potential partner promotes sustainability through its own operations and those of its customers? The key is to look for providers that target carbon reduction in multiple areas, can provide evidence of sustainable business practices and exemplifies “green” supply chain execution.
A high-level checklist might include a history of sustainable practices, a commitment to recycling and renewables, a focus on energy efficiency, a forward-looking approach to waste and emissions handling, compliance with sustainability regulations and any awards that recognize the company for environmentally responsible business practices. When it comes to the global food supply chain, the gold standard of recognition is being named a Top Green Provider by Food Logistics Magazine.
You’ll also want to make sure the provider offers services that will help you be more sustainable. Examples include:
1. Alternative fuels & sustainable transportation: look for a rental, lease or transportation provider that offers some form of alternative fuels transportation, whether it’s hybrid, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vehicles. Ideally, the provider will also have natural gas infrastructure that includes natural gas fueling and maintenance facilities. Also look for a transportation partner that participates in the EPA SmartWay® program.
2. Smart network design: one of the best ways to drive sustainability is with smart network design: the starting point for leading green supply chains. By designing a supply chain network with carbon reduction in mind from the get-go, you can be strategic about where you locate distribution centers, how many miles are traveled, inventory volumes, and size and number of network facilities.
3. Engineering expertise: to optimize shipments, routes and modes. Examples include centralizing shipment planning and execution to boost shipping efficiencies, using network optimization tools to optimize your network, using visibility tools to track products, co-locating packaging and warehousing. With the right level of expertise and insight, a savvy partner can help you improve visibility, make better use of assets, reduce costs and improve continuously.
4. Efficiencies in warehouses and other facilities: look for a partner whose facilities, whether they’re distribution centers, packaging facilities, cross-dock facilities or maintenance/repair centers, are equipped with lighting efficiencies and leading-edge energy and temperature management technologies.
5. Sustainable packaging: when it comes to minimizing environmental impact across the product life cycle, sustainable packaging offers opportunities to reduce waste, costs and carbon impact. Look for a partner with state-of-the-art primary and secondary food and non-food packaging facilities capable of producing sustainable packages sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy, and ideally made of renewable or recycled source materials.
One company that made the transition to a more fuel efficient fleet is Willow Run Foods. Download the full case study to learn how they were able to achieve an annual fuel related savings of approximately $100,000 by adopting 15 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.
What initiatives are you taking to save money and reduce your carbon impact?
Authored by Darin Cooprider
Darin Cooprider is Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Packaged Goods at Ryder System, Inc. With more than 25 years of experience in food manufacturing, big box retail, strategy consulting and 3PL services, Darin has played an active role in developing and executing strategies to improve service, lower cost and increase reliability across numerous industry segments.