Today’s logistics and supply chain professional is faced with a never-ending array of challenges. Uncertain markets, demanding customers, cost-down pressures coupled with rising energy and commodity costs, the retention of talent, tempestuous weather… the list goes on and on. So, how is the overworked and stressed professional to react when expected to address these challenges in a way that minimizes impact to the natural environment and society at large? Or, put another way, how can they weave sustainability into everything they do?
It may seem that an already heavy burden becomes unbearable under such added duress. Some might think that they can simply fashion blinders and shut out the sustainability movement. The same attitudes might have been applied to the Total Quality Management (TQM) and Lean/Operational Excellence movements that precede the latest push toward sustainability. Do so at your own risk. Those firms that failed to make quality an imperative in the 1980s and 1990s didn’t live to see the 21st century. Similarly, those firms that shun the principles and practices of operational excellence, practices that protected margins in difficult market circumstances, folded shop in the recent economic climate of the past five years in their absence. Might the same be said of firms that fail to reduce negative environmental and societal impacts in the remainder of this decade? Do you want to risk it?
C.H. Robinson joined forces with Logistics Quarterly magazine to shed light on this future through the formation of the LQ Sustainability Study and Awards Program. Now in its second year, the program encourages companies in the logistics services domain to bring forward their best sustainability practices. The focus on logistics service providers reflects the realities of today’s supply chains. Shippers are shifting increasingly more activities and volume to third party logistics (3PL) specialists. Further, logistics—and transportation, in particular—represents the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, outpacing the sum of all other industrial activity by about 30 percent. Transportation is the most energy-intensive activity in our economy, consuming about 2/3 of our petroleum supply. On a positive note, logistics ranks second only to healthcare in terms of employment, thereby impacting our society demonstrably through its creation of employment and wealth. Yet, much focus to date is directed to sustainability in manufacturing operations.
Logistics Quarterly and C.H. Robinson hope to change this by bringing logistics sustainability to the forefront. Logistics Quarterly encourages service providers to share their stories in the study and awards program. Applications can be found at http://www.lq3plstudy.com/ through March 31. As a member of the advisory board, I look forward to reviewing the applications and bringing these stories forward this summer to advance the state of the art in sustainability.