A raft of recent developments in Asia and globally highlight an increasing focus on multi-party collaboration to continue driving forward the ‘greening up’ of supply chain operations.
Some of those moves are industry-wide. In Asia, for example, it was announced late last year that an APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) initiative called the Green Supply Chain Cooperation Network was set to take a significant step forward with the establishment of its first pilot centre – in Tianjin, China. That facility, stated the authorities involved, would “facilitate experience exchange and policy exploration” relating to green supply chain operations.
Other recent collaborations worldwide have involved individual logistics players. Earlier this year, for instance, global forwarder DB Schenker Logistics and container shipping giant Maersk Line announced they had signed a six-year strategic agreement relating to the reduction of CO2 emissions from ocean freight.
“Maersk Line will undertake to reduce the CO2 emissions of every container it ships on behalf of DB Schenker Logistics between now and 2020 by 20% compared to 2014 levels,” they stated.
Individual major logistics providers contacted recently by Asia Cargo News all agreed that cross-party collaboration was vital if efforts to continue improving the environmental performance of supply chains were to make substantial further progress.
“We certainly can’t succeed on this journey alone. We firmly believe that the stakes are so high that we should not only collaborate with our customers and suppliers, but also with our competitors,” commented Hakan Bicil, chief commercial officer for CEVA Logistics.
In the context of the former, he continued, CEVA engaged in regular dialogues with customers about that subject and had held sustainability seminars “to share our vision of how we can best protect the planet while continuing to move forward with ambitious growth plans.”
One specific example of collaboration with a customer highlighted by Bicil involved playing “an instrumental role” in an initiative by American Honda to reduce carbon emissions. “By being the first provider of natural gas-powered tractors, CEVA has helped American Honda get closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2020.”
In the context of more general cross-industry collaboration, Bicil pointed out that CEVA and several other leading global logistics players were part of the AEL (Alliance for European Logistics) whose members were working with policy makers to generally develop consistent regulation for the transport and supply chain industry.
“CEVA is working with the AEL and other members of the organization to achieve technological advances to achieve greenhouse gas reductions as efficiently as possible and to assist members to meet their industrial and environmental objectives,” he added.
The general message about the need for different supply chain players to work together to improve the environmental performance of such operations was reinforced by Stephan Schablinski, director, sustainable supply chain solutions, for DHL Supply Chain Singapore.
“Increased cross-party collaboration is key to identifying and removing barriers to adopting green supply chain practices at industry level, to developing green freight standards and to sharing/learning about current green best practices,” he stated.
DHL’s own moves in that area, he continued, had included championing the formation of industry partnerships like Green Freight Asia (a programme which brings logistics providers together to advance green solutions in Asia) and Green Freight Europe. “The key objective of both platforms is to help lower fuel consumption of land-based freight movements, reduce CO2 emissions from those movements and lower shipping costs across the entire supply chain.”
Meanwhile, on the air freight front, continued Schablinski, DHL was working with its major airline partners and competitors “to establish a standardized platform to gain better and more comparable transparency over the efficiency of air transport to further minimize our environmental impacts.”
More generally, he added, DHL had also developed the Green Transformation Lab – in collaboration with Singapore Management University – to “accelerate the evolution of sustainable logistics in the industry.”
A spokesman for another major global logistics provider, TNT, further backed up the argument that cross-party collaboration was needed to keep improving the green credentials of supply chain operations. “We think co-operation is essential to improve the overall supply chain environmental performance and our own operational and carbon efficiency in particular,” he confirmed.
In that context, continued the spokesman, TNT had taken part in several projects funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for Research. One example was FREVUE (Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe), a project designed to develop zero-emission delivery solutions for use in city centres. “In projects such as FREVUE, each party, from vehicle manufacturers to local governments, contributes its own expertise toward a common goal,” he explained.
Some of those projects could have implications for TNT’s Asian operations. For example, said the spokesman, the company was now considering using experience gained from a previous trial ‘mobile depot’ project run in conjunction with its FREVUE partners in Brussels, Belgium, to experiment with a similar set-up in Jakarta.
That Brussels scheme, explained TNT, involved operating a parked-up large custom-designed trailer as a storage/sorting centre for parcel shipments, from which final deliveries in the city were made using electric tricycles, rather than traditional vans, to reduce CO2 emissions and noise in an urban environment.
Andrea Dorothea Schoen, senior manager carbon controlling and consulting for logistics group Schenker AG, went so far as to suggest that in fact, when it came to further development of green supply chain operations, there would be no significant progress without it.
Schenker’s own activities on that front, she added, included GLEC (global standardization of GHG emission reporting), collaboration with major customers on green logistics projects and “carbon reduction agreements with all preferred air and ocean carriers in which the carriers commit to carbon reduction per unit of freight 2014-2020.”
However, CEVA’s Bicil also sounded one note of caution when it came to logistics players working together to make supply chains greener, pointing out that companies needed to be aware of all the implications of collaborating with other parties.
As an example, he cited the development of improved horizontal collaboration and cross supply chain integration in the road freight sector to increase vehicle fill rates, lower empty running, provide more back haul opportunities and strengthen fleet utilization rates. “Although it is clearly the right thing to do, we need to be fully mindful that any such collaboration is totally transparent and never anti-competitive.”
By Phil Hastings
Europe Correspondent | London