There is growing awareness of the environmental problems relating to industrial production, distribution and recycling of products, especially in large metropolitan areas and along major lines of communication. There is also a lot of talk about climate change being connected with certain sorts of development. Environmentalists and governments are no longer the only ones taking note of such things. Today, enlightened members of the business community are stepping forward to play a role in changing policies.
For example, the international press recently reported that US multinationals including large concerns such as General Motors, General Electric, Du Pont and Alcoa, have prepared programmes for reducing emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol and providing incentives for managers who achieve the targets. Many companies have adopted such objectives despite the Bush administration’s view that the Protocol would expose the US economy to high risks (e400bn), because they are already subject to Kyoto-based agreements in the main markets where they operate. Further, top US car makers would have to make their products comply if they wanted to sell in Canada, for example. It would hardly make economic sense for them to make cars to different standards for the US market. To ensure themselves renewable energy sources and other more environmentally friendly technologies, US firms may well be forced to use processes developed in other countries.
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is also becoming widespread.
It’s becoming clear that environmental concern will soon be another element in competition between nations and continents.
Logistics operators must somehow acknowledge their share of responsibility for the public’s increasing intolerance of traffic and/or waste disposal problems, yet at the same time avoid a Luddite backlash against the logistics industry.
In this context, a group of Italian logistics executives and experts recently decided to found the Association for Sustainable Logistics, known as SOS-LOGistica, where SOS stands for both urgency and sustainability (SOStenibilità in Italian). SOS-LOGistica has been established to build what it calls a ‘long’ supply chain that includes environmental compatibility and issues of mobility in order to achieve a more complete and effective value chain.
By sustainable logistics, SOS-LOGistica means a logistics that aims at offering the service and economic conditions the market wants and at the same time seeks all the best environmental and mobility solutions for the transport, delivery and recycling of products and goods. Sustainable logistics should promote a model that is more efficient and at the same time more sensitive.
This approach is based on a conviction that in most cases, pollution represents a cost and looking for the most economical solution for a given operation is by no means incompatible with the search for the most environmentally correct solution.
The first initiative the organisation took in the public domain was decidedly ambitious – an international convention, with some 40 speakers including Jeremy Rifkin, in Turin in November last year. Entitled Sustainable logistics: necessity or opportunity?, the event focussed on best practice, on whether it’s possible to develop a supply chain that’s also environmentally compatible and on the advantages of providing for such needs at a preliminary product and/or packaging design stage.
It was shown, for example, how a French consumer goods distributor appreciably cut the number of trucks per year feeding its shops by modifying the characteristics of its own branded product packaging. And Rank Xerox reported on its recycling of a high percentage of used photocopier components. Other themes included high efficiency City Logistics applications in Europe and how to optimise use of existing infrastructures.
Giulio Aguiari is president of SOS-LOGistica and a former vice president of ELA