The Green Corridor: “Own Goals” That Block a Sustainable Future

The Green Corridor: “Own Goals” That Block a Sustainable Future

by Timothy Foote Director Transportation & Network APAC Asendia and Founder of Susymbio

People that have watched football know that on occasion teams will make an “own goal”. Depending on which side you were supporting, one cannot help but wince when it happens. Clearly the intention to score on your own team was not in the player’s mind. Indeed the opposite was the case. A defender may have wanted to block the shot, but instead it angled the ball to the upper right corner of the goal. A fullback may have wanted to pass to the goalie’s feet only to watch it roll into the goal.

When dealing with sustainability today, “own goals” are ever present. The “own goal” in this case being policies or actions that while benefiting some segments of society in the short term will harm all of society by adding to carbon and air pollution in the atmosphere. The intentions may have been good to start with, but on balance society and sustainability lose.

Good Intentions with Damaging Results

Examples of this are everywhere. One example I found just the other day made me shake my head in disappointment. For 20 years a Bali based company call Temesi Recycling showed that with local support and ingenuity, a recycling business could not only successfully find startup funding, but also grow. Temesi used organic waste from landfills in Bali and converted it into useful organic compost for farms.

Instead of having the waste take up more and more land in a growing landfill, this waste was actually converted into something that helped grow more food for the community in the form of organic fertilizer. Additionally, by converting the waste into compost, it was not able to rot itself into a methane producing source (thus preventing the release of harmful green house gasses). This was not a small project either. As Bali’s population and economy continued to grow over the last 20 years, the amount of organic compost produced by Temesi reached a level of 30 tons a day!

Unfortunately Temesi was forced to close. No longer producing compost and no longer preventing the methane being made by the organic waste building up in the landfill. The reason for its closing is a 70 to 90% subsidy for industrial brand fertilizers (not inclusive of compost) passed out to farmers in Indonesia.

On the surface, increasing farm yields with cheap fertilizer will make farmers and consumers happy. It brings down the costs for the farmer and with larger yields should bring down costs for the consumers. That said compost is used as a fertilizer. Why single out industrial made fertilizer alone to get taxpayer’s money? The compost ideally should be prioritised first for the greater good of society as well as the farmers and consumers. Regrettably, that is not what happened.

The Three R’s Minus One

In companies around the globe the “Three R’s” of reduce – reuse – recycle are a mantra used to get staff to think about how to be more ecologically conscience. Recycling being a last ditch option, still needs to be an option for business and communities.

Reusable bottle and plastic recycling programmes do much better when there are incentives. In the case of Temesi’s operations, that also should be incentivised – not left to fend for itself against heavily subsidised competitors.

“Own Goals” are a Global Challenge

The world is spending over 1.8 trillion dollars in subsidies to industries that harm the environment. We as taxpayers are financing the polluting of our own planet affecting our own survival. That’s roughly 2% of global GDP – and this is actually a low estimate!
The industries receiving the majority of these subsidies are fossil fuels, agriculture and forestry. This is humanity shooting an “own goal” on its own future without providing the transparency that is often given to emerging green or even carbon free industrial development.

There is a lot clouding the picture. For one, some information outlets tend to frame subsidies to fossil fuels as a positive – a program to “help business” – even though the general public is the one paying the bill in higher taxes and increased trips to the doctor. When it comes to transitioning towards green energy (like SAF percentage mandates for instance), I have seen articles that frame this as an added expense to industry and the consumers which results in higher prices. Hold on though! Subsidies always mean higher prices – but in the form of your taxes.

What’s a Logistics Professional to do?

Taking this back to what we can do in logistics management, here are some ideas that can help defend our planet’s sustainability goals.

  1. We need to strive for transparency in what is going on. When everything is foggy, it blocks our ability see if we are scoring on ourselves.
  2. Our industries need to advocate for energy transition policies. The goal for any subsidies ideally eliminating green house gas emissions.
  3. Continue to eliminate waste not only in our processes, but on the consumer side as well.

Maybe think on the above and how it relates to your everyday business practices. Taking in the entire picture, identifying and eliminating waste – these are what logistics professionals work on all time. It’s not a long list, but it can prevent some “own goals” and keep us all in the game together.

About the Author

Timothy Foote
Director, Transportation & Network APAC at Asendia and Founder of Susymbio

Tim has worked in management positions at multiple MNCs for more than 25 years, gaining expansive expertise in logistical operations. Tim continues to craft delivery solutions for many e-commerce clients at Asendia. Once a regional Head of Go Green at DHL eCommerce, Tim now works for customers to decarbonise their logistics by managing Asendia’s 100% carbon-neutral network.

To further promote a net zero future for the logistics industry, Tim created MOVE GREEN. This is a movement committed to greening the logistics industry during this time of transformation. Please join the companies making a pledge to become net zero by going to Susymbio.com for more details.

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