Green logistics, what is it and what are its benefits?

We are currently experiencing a time of growing social and political concern about climate change, so most companies are looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of their activities. Green logistics is a new concept that is increasingly being used in the corporate policies of all types of companies. This is because we are increasingly aware that the pollution caused by the various logistics processes has a negative impact on the environment, due to carbon dioxide emissions. It should be borne in mind that the transport of goods generates around 10% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

The primary objective of green logistics or environmental logistics is to minimize as much as possible the impact on the environment caused by logistics processes throughout the world. In other words, to reduce pollution by making more efficient use of resources and increasing the sustainability of the supply chain. And all this while achieving a balance between economic and ecological efficiency.

In order to achieve this goal, the processes of the logistics chain must be modified to reduce emissions and transform strategies and structures to adapt to a sustainable model. This type of initiative is closely linked to corporate social responsibility. The aim is, therefore, to work more effectively, reducing the negative impact of polluting emissions and waste, and achieving greater efficiency in the logistics department.

Companies that manage to carry out an environmental logistics process will have a greater competitive advantage and a better positioning in the market, since customers will improve their perception of them.

Environmental or green logistics involves taking action on aspects such as waste recycling, environmentally friendly transportation, the creation of green warehouses and the rational use of raw materials.

Elements involved in green logistics

Some of the most important elements involved in implementing green logistics policies are the following:
  • Transportation. Vehicles are one of the main contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, so in order to reduce pollution it will be absolutely necessary to optimize routes, reduce the number of transfers, replace the most polluting vehicles with hybrid or electric fleets, etc.
  • Distribution. We will have to achieve a more efficient distribution of traffic and reduce emissions by finding alternative routes or making deliveries at off-peak times, etc.
  • Packaging. Using reusable packaging and materials will help reduce the environmental impact of packaging.
  • Storage. Having a good infrastructure to store, transport and load goods more easily will save time and reduce pollution. We can also reduce electricity consumption by using renewable energies.
  • Recycling. Any logistics process generates a large amount of waste, so using recyclable, reusable or biodegradable materials will reduce the environmental impact while reducing costs and increasing profitability.
Solutions for green logistics

Some of the innovative solutions that many companies are proposing to achieve green logistics within their processes are, for example, the following:

  • Delivery by non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles or electric vehicles. By using this type of vehicles, the emission of CO2 into the environment is significantly reduced and the current levels of pollution are reduced. Although it should be noted that companies that opt for this solution are forced to make a significant investment to renew their fleet of delivery vehicles, which returns the reduction of CO2 emissions, the fulfillment of the objectives of corporate social responsibility and the great competitive advantage that the company acquires over its competitors.
  • Autonomous vehicles. These are all those autonomous driving vehicles that carry the package to the place of delivery. They allow a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and speed up the delivery of parcels.
  • Urban minihubs. Minihubs are small warehouses where all the merchandise to be delivered is deposited in an area. From the minihubs the delivery would be made to each customer by bicycle or electric motorcycle. This system can also be used for the collection of packages or returns (reverse logistics).
  • Mobile fleet management. These are computerized systems that allow the route to be adapted daily to customer demand through the use of mobile minihubs that travel to the required delivery area. The location of the mobile warehouse is studied according to the deliveries to be carried out.
  • Drone delivery. A good solution for emergency deliveries in the event of accidents or deliveries to places that are difficult to access.
  • Delivery robots. Robots usually consist of a board with wheels on which the packages are loaded. They can follow the delivery drivers, helping them to transport heavier shipments. This system can be very useful in central areas of cities where road traffic is prohibited.
  • Segway. A 100% ecological means of transport ideal for short journeys, due to the fact that it has a range of about 40 km on a single battery charge. Its use is permitted in most public and private pedestrian areas of cities, its consumption is low, and it is powered by lithium-ion batteries that are automatically recharged when descending a slope or by electric current.
The role of recycling in green logistics

An important aspect that needs to be worked on in order to implement green logistics in our company is the recycling and processing of all the obsolete products that are generated. The recycling possibilities vary depending on the type of product and the type of company, and there are many valid recycling systems.

One of the recycling solutions we have for companies are the Integrated Management Systems (IMS). An IMS is an organization that promotes and manages the recovery of end-of-life products for their subsequent treatment or proper disposal.

At present in Spain there are several GIS; for example:
  • ECOEMBES. It is responsible for the management of packaging collected in the yellow container.
  • ECOVIDRIO. Manages glass containers collected in the green container.
  • SIGRE. Manages the remains of medicines and their containers.
  • ECOPILES. Manages waste batteries and used domestic accumulators.
  • SIGRAUTO. Manages waste from end-of-life vehicles and mechanical parts replacement.
  • SIGAUS. Manages waste used industrial oils.
  • SIGNUS. Manages waste tires.
  • SIGCLIMA. manages air conditioning waste.
  • SIGFITO. Manages containers of agricultural phytosanitary products.
  • ECOFIMÁTICA and TRAGAMOVIL. Manage computer and telecommunications equipment waste.
  • ECOTIC, ECOLEC and ECOASIMELEC. Manage all types of electrical and electronic waste.
  • AMBILAMP and ECOLUM manage waste generated by lighting equipment.
Benefits generated by green logistics in a company

The main benefit obtained by environmental or green logistics is to reduce the impact that this activity has on the environment. But in the process of improving logistics activity, another series of benefits are also achieved, such as:

Reduce traffic. As mentioned above, transportation and warehousing are the logistics processes with the greatest environmental impact. For this reason, if traffic can be improved and reduced, greater efficiency can be achieved in the transport of goods.

Reduce waste. Encouraging recycling or the use of reusable materials helps companies to reduce costs and have a lower environmental impact.

Reduced noise pollution. Traffic reduction and sustainable mobility also help to reduce this annoying type of pollution.

Rationalize the use of resources. By making better use of available resources, companies can reduce their costs. Environmental logistics helps to optimize transport and storage operations, as well as to reduce the amount of waste, achieving greater energy efficiency.

Renewing the transport chain. Greater investment by governments in the construction of new alternative roads would help to optimize traffic flow.

Improve brand image. A company with green logistics can position itself in the market as a company that cares about its environment and is environmentally conscious.

Attract new customers and suppliers committed to sustainability. Nowadays, more and more people value companies that are concerned about sustainability. This type of logistics helps these companies to differentiate themselves from the competition and to attract new customers.

In short, there are multiple benefits for companies that incorporate green logistics into their corporate strategy. First, they can achieve a balance between economic efficiency and environmental stewardship. Secondly, by recycling and optimizing resources, they can achieve more efficient processes and improve profitability. And finally, they can reduce the negative impact of pollutant emissions and waste.