The boom in online shopping has put increased demand on the logistics industry, resulting in continued growth in road and air freight. An expert in environmental training and certification for large organisations warns that the logistics sector will contribute to alarming carbon emission levels if it does not effectively and strategically combat emissions now – but a successful environmental strategy must be led by boards and executive leaders.
Saeid Nikdel, environmental management systems expert at global risk management provider SAI Global, said the rapid growth in deliveries of goods took much of the logistics industry by surprise last year, and they rose to the challenge to expedite deliveries to consumers and businesses.
“The additional pressure in delivery volumes may have delayed the industry in making headway on setting and making carbon reduction emissions,” he said.
“Now that businesses have had time to adjust to continual high delivery volumes, 2021 is a good year to create a plan to reduce each business’s environmental impact and create change within the industry overall,” said Saeid.
Research reveals that online shopping sales in Australia have increased 64% month-on-month since March 2020. Similarly, global air cargo demand has surpassed pre-pandemic levels – up 9% in February 2021 on February 2019 volumes.
With the transport sector accounting for 18% of Australia’s total emissions, sitting behind the energy sector, it appears logistic and freight organisations need to step up.
Saeid said the logistics sector had an enormous challenge ahead, and business leaders needed to drive this change from the top.
“While transport is at the heart of the sector, stakeholders still want organisations to be transparent and accountable to their sustainability goals.
“They want to see businesses taking active steps to minimise their impact. Government emission targets to achieve net-zero by 2050 also add pressure on businesses to take this seriously,” he said.
Saeid said a top-down approach, whereby business leaders and CEOs actively lead an organisation’s environmental strategy and policy, was vital to a low-CO2 strategy. He said logistics leaders needed to demonstrate their strong commitment to meeting the business objectives for all employees and relevant external providers to follow, and they must have a framework in place to guide them.
“There are various approaches the transport and logistics sector can apply to minimise its environmental footprint. There are smaller changes such as using recyclable or recycled packaging materials, to more significant ideas including transitioning to electric vehicles and drawing electricity from renewable-energy sources.
“To keep a business accountable to its environmental objectives and ensure it is making progress, certifying to international benchmarks such as ISO 14001 Environmental Management System can be valuable.
“It demonstrates to stakeholders and the broader business that there is a strategic plan for the business to be more sustainable,” he said.
Organisations that certify to ISO 14001 can keep themselves accountable to its environmental strategy as independent audits occur several times during the three-year lifecycle of the certificate. It also guides business leaders who commit to an environmental policy to hold them responsible for driving the change:
1. Leaders should take accountability for the effectiveness of the organisation’s environmental management system and ensuring environmental objectives are established and compatible with the direction of the business.
2. Business processes should reflect the environmental management system and strategy it has committed to. For example, an organisation could adopt green procurement strategies, whereby products and services are chosen based on its minimal environmental impact over cost-based decisions.
3. Leaders should equip the business with the necessary resources to successfully carry out the environmental strategy.
4. To ensure it meets its intended outcomes, leaders must get the environmental policy and strategy regularly reviewed. Those that choose to certify to ISO 14001 will have regular audits several times during the certificate lifecycle to ensure it meets the international benchmark.
5. Leaders should communicate the importance of the business’ environmental strategy and objectives to enable employees and relevant external providers to contribute to the effectiveness of the targets and ensure they have a clear understanding on the outcome.
6. As leaders of an organisation, they are also encouraged to promote continual improvement within the business and support key employees who are helping to lead and drive this change within the business.