Why last mile ‘greening’ is the by-product of an efficient logistics business


Author: Gary Byrne


According to the company’s CEO Paul Polman, “Unilever’s logistics network transports finished goods over 1.5 billion kilometres each year, which is the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back more than 2,000 times”. Despite this high mileage, the FMCG company has fast become synonymous with a sustainability-first agenda. In 2012, Polman created the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, a decade-long scheme to double the company’s revenue while also slashing its carbon footprint by half. 


This initiative mirrors a wider commitment from the logistics sector as a whole to translating green practices into results; primarily investing in improving environmental sustainability within the transportation element of the supply chain. This is no coincidence, since the transport and logistics industry generates nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of the world’s C02 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.


Strategies for reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, particularly from road vehicles, range from adopting more alternative energy and hybrid vehicles and using lighter vehicles with improved aerodynamics, to deploying telematics and developing new service models to optimise transport routes. This is particularly important in the ‘last mile’ to a customer’s home, where deliveries and redeliveries in often built-up areas can burn into fuel and time. As a leading logistics company, DHL has found a way to transport mail and shipments around the world in a sustainable manner via their GoGreen solutions programme. The company has developed its own innovative carbon accounting and controlling system to track, measure and minimise energy and fuel consumption by 30 per cent in 2020 via their existing financial systems.


To feed a system like this it is vital to have a consolidated and accurate view of where energy costs are coming from. We hear from the industry that it’s that single view that often proves most difficult to achieve – particularly when over 13% of the entire logistics sector workforce in the UK are employed in road haulage and a further 11% are employed in storage and warehousing.


Panasonic’s Gateway smart consolidation tool is an answer to cutting carbon emissions while effectively managing and combining deliveries in controlled and restricted areas along the supply chain. It provides a single, consolidated online portal for all operational and customer relationship management; from store and centre self-booking, through to secure access for customers to track their stock both inbound and outbound. The effect is a view of where any inefficiencies are coming from, providing a path to resolve the issues and therein reduce energy use.


‘Greening’ end-user fleets would be a definitive step in the right direction, according to the European Commission. Technology is the enabler in this process, however it is a clear vision and commitment from the industry to proactively address inefficiencies that is stimulating progress. ‘Greening’ is the by-product of an efficient business. When the environment and business interests collide, the logistics industry is set up to thrive.



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