As a result of the numerous calls to save ‘mother nature” from destruction and the ever-increasing diversity and complexity of organisations, currently numerous organisations have adopted various mechanisms of reducing the negative effects of their supply chain on the stability and wellbeing of the environment.
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Majority of organisations have achieved this through establishing strong relationships between logistics, their surrounding ecosystems, and natural resources. The term green logistics was coined in 1980s when the use of advanced technology begun.
The implementation of this management system was meant to ensure that the issue of sustainability, particular to the supply chain is dealt with as per the required or established environmental policies.
Green technology is a name that is synonymous with sustainability, and it is commonly used in the production and distribution of goods industry with focus on social and environmental factors.
It touches on the economy, society and the general environment as a whole. As such, it is not only a company’s CSR policies that determine its direction and way of doing things, but also the effects of its degrading activities on the society and environment play a part.
Therefore, sustainable green logistics must comprise measuring the environmental effects of various distribution strategies, seek ways to decrease the usage of energy in logistical undertakings, eliminate or reduce waste, and finally find ways of effectively treating any disposed products (Eglese & Sbihi, 2007, pp. 99-116).
What is Green Logistics?
When companies embark on green or sustainable logistics, their main focus is to try and mitigate any undesirable effects that are associated with moving goods from one destination to another.
All this is done in an effort to create a sustainable environment for the wellbeing of future generations, because of the negative effects of environmental degradation.
For sustainability purposes, any unnecessary freight movements are eliminated and logistical aids like packages are always reduced and redesigned to have a more positive effect to the environment.
Greenness is the new word used in the logistics industry, as it is the present code for many environmental concerns.
It is necessary to note that, logistics is the core of the modern transport industry and it is done by organizing and controlling freight movement, as this is the only way of eliminating any related environmental hazards (Comtois, Rodrigue & Slack, 2001, 339-350).
As research studies show, the excess carbon emissions are responsible for the dilapidated state of cities and one of the biggest factors that are threatening the survival of rain forests and other natural ecosystems.
As a result of these, the climatic conditions of most areas have been adversely affected; hence, the kind of disasters that have hit most global communities.
Although logistics and transport companies have been sighted to be one of the biggest contributors of carbon emissions, nowadays companies are not allowed to do as they wish without factoring in the environment.
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Most companies have to be aware of how their processes affect the outside world, because investors and numerous stakeholders will not want to be associated with a company that is perceived as notorious in evading its ecological responsibilities Ruamsook & Thomchick, 2012, pp. 1-17.
Stakeholders such as the government, customers, society and other partnering companies, nowadays demand more from any company that is a going concern. In addition to this, nowadays there are numerous regulations that have been put in place to stop companies from being irresponsible.
For instance, as a result of the numerous negative effects that the transport and logistics industry has on the wellbeing of the environment, the Rio, Kyoto and Copenhagen convention came up with measures that organisations in this industry should adhere to.
Among these measures was the ISO 14000 that directs how organisations should protect the environment. Other standards under this class specifically deal with processes or systems such as the product life cycle, how it should be labelled and its overall performance and evaluation.
It is worth noting that, these standards are mostly concerned with the environmental perspective and not the performance point of view (Chang-giong, 2004, pp.1007-1041).
Logistical environmental management systems are meant to give organisations an opportunity of managing their process by exception, because such systems help organisations to identify adverse variances from main plans, in addition to finding solutions to them as they occur.
Therefore, such systems force management teams to be on their toes, especially when it comes to environmental issues and avoiding legalities that could be detrimental to such organisations. The implementation of a green logistics system is usually done in four different levels.
The first level is the customer view where an organisation has to look for ways of supplying products more efficiently and conveniently without wastage of space and including of non-essential packaging materials that are non-biodegradable.
The second level is planning in the organisation. Under this stage, the management strives to comply with ISO14000 guidelines in order to help it to plan better towards green logistics.
The third step is the process and control stage; whereby, the management will be judged on how effective they are at adopting management by exception systems.
The fourth step is technological advancement and here organisations are gauged on how well they have adopted more efficient systems that take less time and have a low carbon footprint on the environment.
In addition to this, such systems must endeavour to produce more products and show how committed the company is in researching for better, cleaner and efficient systems.
This stage also takes into consideration factors such as the number of litres of oil that are consumed by the lorries per kilometre, the wear and tear of non-biodegradable parts of a vehicle like the tyres, after how long the vehicles are serviced and how waste oil is removed every time the car is due for service (Browne et al., 2010, 341-360).
The Current State of Sustainable/ Green Logistics in the World
Congestion in metropolises is constantly increasing due to growing levels of traffic. Majority of large cities are challenged with difficulties concerning noise, air pollution and congestion caused by vehicles.
The appraisal of inner-city logistics in the past eras showed that carbon emissions have degraded cities due to the growing use of heavy commercial vehicles.
Alongside this, the economic and environmental feasibility of cities is being affected by the existing establishment of urban delivery systems; whereby, the extensive use of large trucks add to air pollution by discharging nitrogen oxide and other airborne contaminants.
Although this is the case, energy conservation can reduce carbon monoxide emissions and slow global warming (Taniguchi &Thompson, 2004, pp.1-16).
Presently, companies such as NEDO, Daihatsu Motors and Sumitomo have undertaken a co-operative system of using electric cars with the aim of reducing traffic and promoting greener cities.
These companies have vans that are normally parked in strategic locations, which are easily accessible to any of the company’s employees in order to facilitate the transfer of goods to customers.
To make these cars more efficient, these companies have fitted in them GPS systems that help their drivers to find the shortest routes to their clients (Taniguchi and Thompson, 2004, pp. 5-14) and Murphy & Poist, 2000, pp. 5-16).
In addition to this, some milk processing companies have also implemented advanced information systems in their cars. The presences of these systems help them to know the location of their delivery trucks and where they are stuck.
Hence, using such information, such organisations are able to analyse their routes and change them or re-schedule them in order to shorten them and avoid traffic.
On the other hand, many countries such as the UK have also started embracing green logistics. For example, in London, almost all the cars are well maintained in order to maintain a low emission level.
Moreover, this city has even a Low Emission zone (LEZ), which is an area that can only be accessed by certain kinds of vehicles that comply with certain emission levels.
In towns like Brussels, a road had to be constructed specifically for heavy freight commercial vehicles, in order to divert the path of such vehicles from residential areas.
In other cities such are Paris and Rome, most companies have adopted a night delivery scheme, which makes delivery faster and more efficient; hence, creating the opportunity to use more environmental friendly cars (Daganzo & Geroliminis, 2005, pp. 3-114).
Green logistic systems have also been embraced by numerous companies in America.
Currently, the ministry of transportation through the DMV and other supporting organs has set the maximum emission limit for vehicles in order to force their owners to maintain them and get rid of those cars that do not meet such standards.
The American government through the DMV and insurance companies always encourage car owners to take them for checking, as this is the only way of ensuring that all bad vehicles are not allowed on the roads.
The same case has been reciprocated in other parts of the world, because currently almost every nation appreciates the significance of preserving the environment.
Green Logistics and its Paradoxes
When assessing the reality of logistics in the business world, in most cases its essential elements sometimes may not go hand in hand with environmental support. Logistics is normally about reducing transport costs and taking advantage of economies of scale.
However, vehicles or systems that are termed as green may not be able to cope or deliver goods with the desired speed. In most cases, companies that have JIT strategies may be at a disadvantage, especially when operating in countries like France where delivery has to be done at night.
In this like a case, in instances when stock gets finished in the morning, such companies are forced to wait till evening to continue with their delivering operations. Therefore, to some level, adopting of a green or sustainable logistics system becomes a challenge.
Without reliability, logistic is non-functional, because the kind of system that can deliver packages or other goods on time and without breakages are the ones deemed environmentally unfriendly.
The green methods of delivery are not particularly liked due to their lack of speed, and as a result of modernisation of logistics; the number of stock stored in warehouses has drastically shrunk.
However, as much as this is the case, E-commerce has boomed in recent years, because it is easy to adopt a sustainable logistics system when doing this kind of trade (Comtois, Rodrigue, & Slack, 2001, pp. 341-349).
The Future of Green Logistics and How it Can Be Made More Effective
The future seems bright for green logistics, despite some minor hiccups that organisations are facing.
Currently, most companies have come up with better and more sophisticated vehicles, machines and equipment that are drastically helping them to reduce maintenance costs, fuels consumption and the amount of waste products.
Countries like Japan have designed trains that move by magnetism; thereby, reducing the harm most transportation systems cause to the environment.
Therefore, there is need for the effectiveness of green logistics to be clearly defined in governmental interventions and stiffer laws or policies to be enacted as pertains to compliance with environmental regulations.
Additionally, all business partners should also embrace the green technology and ask anyone who they deal with directly to comply (Davis & Markey, 2007, p. 763-774 and Kawakatsu, Taniguchi &Tsuji, 2000, pp. 202-210).
With this and more new and improved technology coming up every day, better and more environmentally friendly energy saving equipment are likely to be put into use in handling data and transferring of goods from one place to another
In conclusion, although it may take some time before most organisations embrace the concept of green logistics fully, the current trend is very promising. To ensure that organisations embrace it fully, governments should enact laws to govern all transport systems after wide consultations with the concerned stakeholders.
Through this, all the un-answered questions about who will bear the cost of the additional environmental consideration due to greener logistical processes will have solutions.
On the other hand, although implementing sustainable logistics systems can be costly at first, it is necessary for organisations to note that, this is a worthy venture, because not only does it create a healthy environment for present generations, but it also it ensures that the environment is protected for future generations.
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