Progress is occurring on a number of fronts, says Paul Nuzum, a member of the supply-chain faculty of Denver University. He says the push for green supply chains can result in both lower costs and a better corporate image in the eyes of the consumer.
Going green is more than a case of sprucing up one's corporate image. Businesses today are realizing that environmental responsibility save dollars, says Nuzum. He has conducted a number of in-depth interviews about companies' efforts to create green supply chains.
They are addressing the issue on numerous fronts. The use of optimization engines for transportation can lead to a 15-percent reduction in miles. Better load planning can result in fitting 15-20 percent more product on a truck. A shift from long-haul truck to intermodal, wherever feasible, can lower one's carbon footprint for transportation by around 70 percent. Trucking operations can be streamlined through reductions in idling time, telematics, automated vehicle location systems, satellite tracking and alternative power units. Fleet managers can monitor every detail of a vehicle's performance, including braking, acceleration, tire pressure, left turns and overall driver behavior.
In the distribution center, companies can install more efficient lighting and centralized energy-management systems. Solar panels can supply a significant amount of power to the facility. At the design stage, buildings can be angled to take maximum advantage of sunlight. Such improvements can generate an additional 20-30 percent reduction in carbon emissions, according to Nuzum.
In packaging, merchandisers are making big strides in reducing the amount of materials they use. Yoplait has cut the amount of resins in its packaging by 20 percent, resulting in a container that is one-third more cube-efficient, Nuzum says. Kraft has seen similar results in its line of salad dressings.
Of course, no company wants to keep such efforts a secret. Consumers today are highly aware of businesses that are environmentally conscious. At the same time, they're on the lookout for those who are engaging in "greenwashing" - a commitment to the issue in name only. As Nuzum points out, it's not enough that a product be green - the entire manufacturing and delivery system must reflect it as well.
To view this interview in its entirety, click here.
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