Awareness is building around the environmental impact of transportation and logistics. When you see statistics like the below, it’s easy to understand why green freight and sustainable logistics have become such hot topics of late:


The transportation sector has consistently been the U.S.’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The industry was responsible for 27% of emissions in 2020, according to EPA data.


Within that sector, light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles comprised a whopping 83% of GHG emissions, revealing a potential target for lightening the transportation industry’s footprint.


If nothing changes, data from Accenture anticipates a 32% rise in carbon emissions, solely from urban delivery traffic.

While the need for greener freight and sustainable logistics is clear, these concepts mean something different to every organization. In this article, we’ll explore several avenues companies are considering, under the banner that any strategy that reduces the environmental impact of an action could be considered “green.” But, first, let’s look at the upsides around pursuing green freight strategies.

The Benefits of Green Logistics

By adopting more sustainable practices in the areas of transportation and logistics, companies stand to benefit in a number of ways:

But what does it truly mean to “green” your freight or your logistics? Let’s take a look at a couple of strategies we’re seeing in the marketplace.


Green Logistics/Green Freight Strategies

The different approaches to green freight and green logistics are as varied as the meanings these phrases take on within each organization. To give you a sense of the trends in the industry, we’ve listed a few popular sustainability goals below, with some strategies below each.

Goal #1: Reducing Emissions

For the transportation sector, reducing emissions is a significant objective along the road to sustainability. Trucks, airplanes, trains, and ships are responsible for a significant number of greenhouse (GHG) emissions—largely carbon dioxide—as well as other pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

To reduce these emissions, companies are:

  • Choosing rail, when possible. Moving freight by train instead of truck can reduce GHG emissions by as much as 75%.
  • Switching to alternative fuels. Investing in electric trucks, hydrogen trucks, and electric warehouse fleets can offer near-instant reductions in tailpipe emissions.
  • Leveraging route optimization software. This is a perfect example of where efficiency, sustainability, and cost savings intersect. Companies that leverage this type of software can improve their route efficiency, save fuel, lower wear and tear, and reduce emissions—all with a single strategy.

Goal #2: Reducing Waste

Moving freight requires a great deal of material, much of which is discarded after arrival. As a result, some companies are looking at:

  • Changing over to environmentally-friendly packaging. For example, cardboard and packing paper are easily recycled in a number of destinations globally, whereas plastic packing, including bubble wrap and stretch wrap, isn’t.
  • Incentivizing sustainable options at checkout. For retailers, offering consumers free shipping in exchange for longer delivery times offers companies the opportunity to optimize their routing and delivery, potentially lowering costs and emissions.
  • Eliminating paper. Other companies are going all-digital where their documents are concerned, eliminating paper invoices in favor of electronic delivery. It’s a simple change that, across tens of thousands of deliveries, could make a big difference.

Goal #3: Uncovering Efficiencies

Creating new efficiencies is what supply chain optimization is all about. With this goal at the forefront, companies can save time, money, and emissions all in one package. A few strategies we’ve seen and, in several cases, helped our clients implement:

  • Avoiding backtracking. When we’re optimizing freight delivery for a client, this is one of the first things we look at: Do shipments have to travel certain segments twice to get where they’re going? For example, are you sending freight from China to a warehouse in Chicago, and then sending an order to a customer in Long Beach? This kind of routing wastes time and money—and adds to your environmental footprint.
  • Optimizing equipment. We helped one client move from 40′ containers to 53′ trailers for road transport of their inventory. This strategy reduced the number of deliveries—and associated costs and emissions—without sacrificing necessary restocks to keep inventory at optimal levels.
  • Balancing just in case vs. just in time. Although just-in-time inventory management was long the standard practice, a balanced approach can result in smaller, more frequent orders. Increasing the size and decreasing the frequency of your orders could be a more efficient strategy, although it needs to be considered alongside with factors like customer demand and inventory carrying costs.

Finally, even while your organization is considering goals and strategies like these, it’s important to remember that you’re just one link in the chain. Seeking out partners with similar commitments to sustainable solutions—and leveraging those connections in your marketing—will only further your impact in this area.


The Future of Green Freight

“Going green” means something different to every organization. The first step for companies interested in green logistics solutions will be to establish measurable goals with meaningful impact. By implementing strategies that support those goals—and assessing the results—you’ll take the next big step toward lightening your footprint and reducing your environmental impact.


Looking for help uncovering new efficiencies within your supply chain? Our experts would be happy to take a holistic look at your logistics and uncover ways to save you time and money, while lightening your environmental footprint. Just reach out for a complimentary consultation to get started.

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