Tasner discusses the work of the Bay Area Green Supply Chain Forum, a group launched in January 2009 with the mission of promoting supply-chain sustainability. Members come together to share best practices, talk about challenges and launch initiatives to leverage their collective purchasing power in order to promote green practices. "It has proven to be a very beneficial organization for all of us," he says. Originally the group was intended only to attract members from consumer packaged goods companies; now it includes individuals from government and academia as well. Today it boasts more than 100 participants overall.
Tasner offers a number of tips for CPG companies looking to address the sustainability issue for the first time. The basic choice of rail versus over-the road truck, for example, offers an "enormous benefit toward achieving greater sustainability." Packaging, too, is an important area of consideration. The use of recycled content rather than virgin materials "is an obvious way to make great strides." Tasner cites Method Products, a household goods producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose bottles are fully recyclable. Other green steps that companies might take on the transportation side include modifying trucks to improve aerodynamics, save fuel and reduce idling time. "These things are beginning to catch on," he says.
Many companies today are looking to calculate their carbon footprint, but Tasner says they don't always take all factors into account. Transportation is an obvious source of emissions, with trucks considered to be "the big offenders." On the contrary, he says, the more critical elements are the products themselves and the packages they come in. CPG items are highly processed and require immense amounts of energy to manufacture. That creates "a much bigger carbon footprint than the transportation used to move [them]," says Tasner.
He praises Wal-Mart Stores for its recent sustainability efforts. The big retailer has vowed to use renewable energy in all of its business ventures. In the process, it is involving tens of thousands of suppliers that are required to join the program. "I'm really taken with it, frankly," says Tasner.
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