The Green Corridor: Full Circle – The Promise and Struggles of the Circular Economy and Green Supply Chains

The Green Corridor: Full Circle – The Promise and Struggles of the Circular Economy and Green Supply Chains

by Timothy Foote, Founder of Susymbio

Getting the right product to the right place at the right time in the right way! This is my mantra for building green supply chains. Whether the “product” is raw materials to your factory or it is finished “product” to your end customer – this phrase would sum up the purpose and mission of a logistician in our current millennium. “The right way” emphasizes that our fundamental relationship with the Earth demands that products be made and transported in ways not harmful to the Earth.

The devil is definitely in the details. As the Earth buckles under the strains of disposable consumerism – business leaders today must address exactly what is the “right” product. It can’t simply mean anymore a product that will catch a consumer’s dollars. Products have to be made in such a way that they do not harm the environment throughout the entire life cycle of the product. In addition, there is the moving of products around from node-to-node throughout it’s entire life cycle in an environmentally carbon-neutral way.


Circular Design – The Right Product

The main challenge for designers today clearly rests on producing products that do not become landfill or ocean garbage at the end of its product life cycle.

Today’s innovators are making some amazing inroads for this. Some are incremental and some are revolutionary. An example of an incremental change would be what Coca-Cola is doing for its plastic bottles. In a recent article Chris Casey of Supply Chain Dive covered the developments at Coca-Cola We will shortly see the change from colored plastic bottles to clear plastic bottles. This incremental change allows for greater recycling use and needs to be done in order for Coca-Cola to reach its 100% recycled bottle content objective by 2025.

More revolutionary designs wipe out entire links of carbon emitting processes to produce products with significantly lower footprints as compared to their competing products in the market. A study by the University of Michigan in 2018 showed how a patty of plant-based Beyond meat compared to a regular US beef patty of meat. The comparative assessment showed that the plant-based patty reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 90%! There was among other environment benefits an over 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use as compared to beef.

So while improving the products and the packages used to hold them get re-designed – getting products to the right place and right time requires movement and positioning. This is the realm of the logistics professional. We can help business leaders by providing insight on the environment benefits or disadvantages of their different sourcing options to start with, but after that comes the physical moving of goods.


Green Supply Chains – The Right Place at The Right Time

Where customers receive products is not usually negotiable. That said our efficiency in running the logistics to get to their location is entirely up to logistics professionals. To eliminate unneeded transport or unnecessary miles is always something the logistics manager needs to do. This will always be the case and there are always new tools to assist with this. Load planning software, route planning software, fleet sharing platforms, telematics, and so forth

Timing when stores need replenishment or when factory production will increase its demand, will likewise have better forecasting software to lower the overall waste in our inventory and retail systems. Artificial Intelligence or AI technology is already being harnessed by some to predict better upcoming sales. By doing this, overstocks or express orders will be reduced and emissions associated with these also eliminated.


Green Logistics – The Right Way

The “right way” is all about using logistics and transportation machines that decrease fossil fuel use by replacing it with non-emitting substitutes. Solarisation of warehousing is possible. Companies like Sembcorp, Mitsui & Co., Sunpower, Sun Energy Indonesia can all make our rooftops into power stations. Using engines that do not run on fossil fuels like EVs are coming into fleets slowly but surely (especially in the courier delivery sector).

Train, ship and airline technologies are lagging behind, but there are steps happening. I’ve plotted out initiatives for several companies directed at these transport modes. There are technologies out there to de-carbonize and with government assistance and focused ingenuity – the engines or fuels running these powerful machines can be de-carbonized. Do not pass over incremental solutions. Whether that is increasing percentages of Safe Aviation Fuels or SAF for aircraft or protecting your ship’s hull with barnacle repellent paint – there are steps that can be taken NOW that will help reduce emissions.

To get full circle on the journey to a circular economy and a green supply chain – please feel free to keep in mind my “Four Rights”. With this mantra, I am optimistic that our industry can stop harming the environment.About the Author:

Tim Foote runs Susymbio, a boutique consulting firm advising on e-commerce logistics solutions and sustainability program management services.Tim has held various positions with MNCs, gaining a wide knowledge and expertise in logistics operations. He crafted delivery solutions for e-commerce clients and managed supply chains for several chemical and freight forwarding companies. At DHL eCommerce’s first Asia Pacific Head of Go Green, he put in place carbon footprint management, sustainability training, illegal wildlife smuggling monitoring training, and employee engagement. Tim volunteers his free-time with the Singapore Wildcat Action Group, a not-for-profit organization that raises awareness and funds for wildlife conservation.


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