Industries across all sectors are working to reduce their supply chain carbon footprint to combat climate change. The food distribution industry is one of eight industry supply chains that account for more than 50% of global emissions. The food sector alone accounts for approximately one-quarter of these emissions – the most of any supply chain in the world. Food and beverage companies are working to reduce their carbon footprint and implementing sustainable supply chain management practices to achieve decarbonization across the entire supply chain. Companies are focusing these efforts on all stages of their supply chains, including reducing carbon emissions by optimizing warehousing and distribution solutions.
Reducing carbon emissions
More and more companies are moving toward greener practices to cut carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide, a gas that remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, is rising globally. Atmospheric carbon dioxide peaked for 2021 in May at a monthly average of 419 parts per million (ppm), the highest level since accurate measurements began 63 years ago, according to a recent announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Supply chains can be a major contributor to these carbon emissions. According to a report published by CDP, 90% of all disclosed emissions in the food industry originate within companies’ supply chains. In collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the World Economic Forum report noted, “decarbonizing supply chains could be a game-changer for global climate action with a potentially huge impact.”
To drive down carbon emissions and meet sustainability goals, food and beverage companies are focusing on integrating environmentally friendly practices throughout their supply chains. Partnering with a logistics company that provides sustainable supply chain management solutions is a key strategy for reducing the volume of carbon emissions.
Warehousing for sustainability
Warehousing is a link in the supply chain that provides a significant opportunity for decarbonization. Warehouse operations optimized for energy efficiency, water and resource conservation can help the food and beverage sector shrink its carbon footprint.
Reducing energy consumption is one practice that optimizes warehouses for sustainability. Warehouses that are solar-powered, use LED lighting and motion sensors that turn lights on when a room is occupied and off when it is not and harness natural sunlight where possible can drive measurable, sustainable improvements to this link in the supply chain.
Protecting stormwater runoff at facilities is also key to sustainable warehouse operations. Sustainable approaches to low-impact stormwater management at warehouses include closed pipe network systems that direct runoff to an on-site stormwater management system for quantity control and quality treatment.
Dramatically lowering consumption of single-use paper and plastic products at warehouses is another green practice that enhances supply chain sustainability. For example, paper consumption can be reduced by transitioning warehouses to paperless dock management and handheld systems.
Electric forklifts are a green warehousing practice that can also help food and beverage companies reach sustainability targets. The use of electric forklifts is a green solution that saves approximately 24,000 pounds of carbon per unit and provides the added benefits of reducing operational costs and being easier to maintain. Combining electric forklift usage with solar energy production can be a meaningful step for organizations targeting net zero carbon emissions.
Partner with eco-friendly supply chain solution providers
Food and beverage producers can further make sustainability a core part of their supply chain strategy by looking at supply chain solution providers that take an end-to-end approach to green supply chain practices. This not only includes optimizing warehouse operations but integrating sustainability initiatives into the transportation and distribution process to reduce environmental impact.
Logistics providers that most effectively help customers reduce their carbon footprint leverage green practices throughout their operations. Implementing top to bottom initiatives can run the gamut from improving fuel efficiency and reducing consumption to recycling water used in truck wash bays.
Electric hybrid trucks are rapidly gaining traction as a solution that drives sustainable improvements in the supply chain. Other solutions include trucks equipped with cruise control and integrated with the Forward-Looking Collision System, allowing smooth speed transitions that save fuel. Additionally, trucks with self-inflating tires reduce fossil fuel waste by maintaining proper tire air pressure.
Other strategies for decarbonizing transport include equipping fleets with 11L and 13L engine trucks that are designed to carry more freight at a higher fuel efficiency and governing trucks to a maximum speed of 68 mph to reduce waste. Newer fleets are more environmentally friendly as they minimize exhaust emissions and deliver improved fuel economy.
Supply chain carbon emissions can be further reduced in transport by recycling oil and water, using trucks with aerodynamic skirts and equipping long-haul trailer sleeper cabs with anti-idling auxiliary power units.
As carbon emissions continue to climb and consumers demand more transparency on corporate sustainability, there is an imperative across all industries to reduce carbon emissions. Optimizing the warehouse and transport links in their supply chains is a key strategy food and beverage companies can implement to reduce their carbon footprint. The World Economic Forum/BCG report pointed to the impact of decarbonizing supply chains, saying, “addressing supply chain emissions enables many customer-facing companies to impact a volume of emissions several times higher than they could if they were to focus on decarbonizing their own direct operations and power consumption alone…”
Partnering with a logistics provider that optimizes warehousing and transportation is a supply chain sustainability solution that can help food and beverage companies effectively reduce their carbon footprint.